Creepy Sh#t Part 21 – The Michael Ray Phillips Cold Case

In January of 1989, a police officer in Lufkin, TX stumbled across the dead body of a young man lying face down in a creek. The man’s name is Michael Ray Phillips and he had been murdered in cold blood. He had been slain with three gunshots to the head and there was evidence that he had been tortured and mutilated in a particularly gruesome fashion. The investigation quickly began but the trail soon ran cold.

 

Michael Ray Phillips.

 

Investigators followed up every lead that they could find but they were unable to locate a crime scene, a murder weapon or a definite suspect. They tracked down a man named Tommy Davis and one detective swore that this man was the real killer. However, there was not enough concrete evidence to secure a conviction and he was never brought to trial for Michael Phillips’ murder.

 

The site in the Kit Mconnico Park creek where Michael Phillips’ body was recovered.

 

Eventually, the primary suspect was locked up on unrelated charges and the Michael Phillips’ case went cold. Now, 28 years later, the case is still unsolved. There isn’t much evidence to go on but there’s still a chance that the real killer is at large.

 

Mugshot of Gerald Joe Hendricks upon his arrest in 2011.

 

The Lufkin police officer who initially discovered the body of Michael Ray Phillips was eventually arrested and charged with sex crimes after a decades-long career in law enforcement. Though his charges were unrelated to the murder case, it adds another layer of creepiness to the entire ordeal.

 

Few things are as haunting as an unsolved murder. Tune in to learn about the story of Michael Phillips’ murder and the search for justice out here in the middle of nowhere.

 

Creepy Sh#t Part 20 – East Texas Cryptids

Cryptids are one of the most interesting and popular aspects of creepy, weird folklore. Here in East Texas, the endless pine forests are reportedly the home of all types of bizarre, mystical creatures.

I’ve always been interested in creatures like the Sasquatch and El Chupacabra and I’m very excited to finally make a podcast episode about some of the strange beasts in my corner of the world.

(Note: the images in this post do not belong to me, I’ll post the owner info in the metadata where possible.)

The Wampus Cat

Cherokee woman wearing a wampus mask to defeat the Ew’ah spirit.

 

The Wampus Cat is a creature that possibly has its roots in Cherokee mythology. As the story goes, a Cherokee woman was cursed by a village medicine man and she took on the form of a half-woman, half-cougar beast. In another version, a woman put on a wampus mask to defeat the evil Ew’ah spirit and then continued to walk the woods as a half-cat creature to defend people from other evil spirits. When the Cherokee were forced to move to East Texas by settlers, they may have brought the legend of the Wampus Cat along with them.

In East Texas, the Wampus Cat legend may have morphed into the local legend of the East Texas Black Panthers. Though some mountain lions are found in this area, there are no such things as black panthers in this region. However, some wildcats with a rare genetic disorder may be responsible for sightings of mysterious, dark-colored big cats with an eerie, humanlike cry.

 

The jaguarundi, a possible explanation for East Texas Wampus Cat/Black Panther sightings.

 

El Chupacabra

 

A creature found in Rockdale, TX, reported to be a chupacabra.

 

The chupacabra, or “goat sucker” was first sighted in Puerto Rico in 1995 after many farm animals were found drained of their blood with strange puncture wounds on their chests. Over time, the legend of the chupacabra spread to North America. While in Puerto Rico the bloodsucking creatures were described as reptile-like, two-legged creatures, in the US, they are usually described as dog-like, four-legged animals.

Are chupacabras simply dogs with a skin condition or are they really mutated beasts intent on sucking blood from animals and humans?

A creature found right here in Longview, TX, in 2010, reported to be a chupacabra.

The Jackalope

 

A jackalope mounted on a wall.

Okay, I know you’ve heard of this one. The jackalope is cute, furry little cryptid with an interesting backstory. This creature was created by a pair of brothers in Douglas, Wyoming in 1932. The legend of the jackalope began to spread across the country and even the world.

Jackalopes are admittedly fictional but legends of horned hares and rabbits can be found in countries around the globe dating back hundreds of years. These creatures are a great example of the power of folklore and the persistence of modern legends. It’s amazing how a simple story created by two brothers has achieved such cultural significance, and even a bit of pop culture appeal.

The wolpertinger, a creature from Bavarian folklore and a possible distant cousin of the jackalope.

 

East Texas is undoubtedly home to some fascinating and elusive wildlife. Perhaps there are a few more creatures lurking in the woods, hidden away from the observations of modern science and common knowledge. Listen in and learn more about these mystical animals on the latest episode of the Nowhere Dispatch:

 

Creepy Sh#t Part 19 – Who Killed Karen Silkwood?

In 1946, a woman named Karen Silkwood was born here in Longview. I’d heard about her story here and there over the years but I didn’t know the full details. I certainly didn’t know that she was born in my hometown and later died near the place where my family lived in Oklahoma.

Karen was bright and excelled at science. She got a scholarship to college but eventually left to elope with her boyfriend. When that relationship didn’t work out, she took on a job at the Kerr-McGee nuclear plant near Crescent, Oklahoma.

Though she enjoyed her job at first, she soon became disturbed by safety problems at the plant. She quickly got caught up in a storm of conflicting events: the safety of herself and her coworkers, the insistence of plant management that everything was fine and a worker’s union that was fighting for better treatment.

Though she was just a young woman, Karen showed bravery, tenacity and ingenuity as she began secretly collecting evidence of the plant’s problems for weeks on end. Finally, she had enough to take Kerr-McGee to court. However, she would never get the chance.

 

Karen Silkwood’s grave in Danville Cemetery in Kilgore, TX.

 

She died in a car wreck on the way to meet with a newspaper reporter to tell her story. The investigation determined it was an accident but found signs that may have indicated foul play. Was she killed and, if so, who killed her?

Karen Silkwood’s story is fascinating and frightening. She was one of the first whistleblowers and stood up to a billion-dollar corporation and she may have paid for it with her life. Tune in, listeners, and find out about her story.

 

Creepy Sh#t Part 18: The New London School Explosion

East Texas hasn’t always been the rustic backwater that some folks imagine. At the turn of the 20th century, a recent oil boom had set local communities on the path to modernity. However, this desire was tempered with a resolve for expansion and progress. The result was unimaginable tragedy.

 

 

The New London School Memorial, on Main Street, across from the site of the new school building.
New London School Memorial.

One the morning of March 18, 1937 a faulty gas line causing a natural gas leak caused a massive explosion underneath the New London school building. Of the 600 people inside the building at the time of the blast, over 319 were killed. At the time, it was the greatest tragedy involving school children of the modern era.

 

The grave of a victim of New London.

 

What can we learn from this horrible tragedy? It has shaped the communities where I live, and indeed the entire world, for decades to come.

 

The graves of two sibling victims of New London, buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

 

Perhaps the greatest lesson that we can take from this catastrophe is that the human spirit can always recover, always rebuild into a brighter future, shaped and more ready from the misfortunes of the past.

 

Listen to the episode here:

 

 

 

Creepy Sh#t Part 17 – The Murder of Diamond Bessie

The shady pine trees and red dirt roads of East Texas hide many secrets and many old stories. Though many have lived out quiet, unassuming lives among the pines, others have met a crueler fate. Of all these stories, it is the ones marked down in blood and sorrow that continue to catch our attention so many years later.

In the 1800s, East Texas was a much different place, though some things have never changed. In those days, just after the end of the Civil War, many places in the South became boomtowns, growing rich on the bounty of the land and the appetites of the newly rich. Jefferson was one such place. Ideally situated on the banks of the Red River, this town drew in many people from across the young nation, ready to spend money on drink and companionship.

The grave of Diamond Bessie, adorned with fresh flowers and coins.

These days, Jefferson is known as one of the most haunted cities in Texas, and sometimes one of the most haunted cities in the U.S. How did it garner such a reputation? The history of Jefferson is a history of blood, of treachery and of heartache.

Thus goes the tale of Diamond Bessie Moore. Almost 150 years ago, this beautiful young woman arrived by train in the city of Jefferson, never to leave again. She met her fate across a bridge in the heart of the bayou, slain by a single bullet to the head. Though many suspected her ne’er-do-well lover, the case remains unsolved to this day.

The Brooks House hotel, where Diamond Bessie stayed just before her murder.

What happened that day in 1877, in the shade of the pine trees in the bayou, as the air hung thick over Jefferson? It may never be known but that is no reason to lose interest. Tune in, dear listeners, and I’ll tell you all about the mystery of Diamond Bessie and the place she still holds in the hearts of the people of East Texas.

Creepy Sh#t Part 16: Daniela’s Apartment

Living in a haunted house would be about the spookiest thing I can imagine. Creaking floorboards, disembodied voices, shadows moving at the corner of your eye…makes the blood run cold, no?

I never had an experience in a haunted house but my good friend Daniela told me about her paranormal experiences in a creepy apartment in Canastota, New York in the winter of 2014-2015.

I wanted to have her tell the story on my podcast for quite awhile but she’s very busy so it never quite worked out. When she gave me an additional creepy update to her story, I said to hell with it, you have to be on the podcast. We met at a local park and recorded her story.

It was a beautiful day but a chilling story. Ghostly apparitions, mysterious sounds and a truly weird landlord, her story had plenty of spooky elements.

Also, there was a tiny mysterious door, just like the “Jenny’s Mist” episode. What is it with creepy old houses and tiny scary doors?

Anyway, enjoy the episode, and sorry for all the background noise, I’m still learning to use my new recorder and how to deal with ambient sound.

 

Creepy Sh#t Part 15: The Devil in the Pines

The events of this story are as convoluted as anything I’ve discussed before on the Dispatch. I never imagined that something so bizarre could have happened so close by and when my friend Ashley and I started poring through newspaper articles and websites, we saw how deep the confusion really goes.

Rumors are dangerous. They can send people to jail, let criminals go free and they can obscure the truth for years. Words are much more powerful than we often give them credit for.

Kelly Dae Wilson disappeared from Gilmer, Texas on the night of January 5, 1992. 25 years later, she has never been heard from again. While investigating her case and some other, seemingly unrelated, claims, rumors of witchcraft, cannibalism and Satanic rites began to appear. These wild accusations entwined themselves with the search for Kelly.

The case received national attention and endless coverage in local papers. TV shows like “Inside Edition” and “Dateline NBC” covered the case multiple times. It was a weird time in America, and the Satanic Panic that was sweeping the country would have serious consequences for the Kelly Wilson disappearance.

It was a strange, sordid and confusing investigation. This article provides a decent summary. In this case especially, the devil was most certainly in the details. Even with splitting the podcast into two episodes, there was no way Ashley and I could have covered everything we found. We spent weeks researching before we finally sat down to record.

Reading an article and listening to the podcast is a good way to get familiar with the case, but what really struck me about this whole process were the weird outliers we bumped into while researching.

A secret Stonehenge in the middle of the woods in small-town Texas, with no certainty as to how or why they got there? Check. (Rumored to be the site of Satanic activity, including the activity in the Kelly Wilson case, you can see the Standing Stones on Google Maps here.)

A creepy old house in the middle of town that was rumored to be involved with Satanic activity, due to upside-down “crosses” in its construction? Check.

The house has multiple chimneys, all with this strange “upside-down cross” feature.

 

To this day, people are still searching for Kelly Dae Wilson. The fantastical claims of Satan worship and ritual sacrifice have long since died down in the mainstream press, but some people are still making wild accusations online.

The fact is that Kelly is still missing and the best hope for finding her was lost to mass hysteria and a literal witch-hunt. These days, the Internet and constant communication has taken these kinds of problems mainstream. You only have to log onto any social media platform to see unfounded rumors and bizarre accusations being tossed around. If nothing else, the case of Kelly Dae Wilson reminds us that humans have an endless capacity for suspicion and mistrust and those base instincts can sometimes blind us to the necessity of doing the right thing.

Listen in, Nowhere wanderers.

 

Creepy Sh#t Part 14 – Jenny’s Mist

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? When I started the Nowhere Dispatch podcast, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough content to keep things going. Turns out, all you have to do is look right in front of you. By that I mean, asking the right questions and listening when your friends have something to say.

So, last Super Bowl Sunday, I was hanging out with my good friends Jenny and Sam. (You’ll remember Sam from episode 2.) We were being good patriotic Americans and not watching the Super Bowl at all, choosing to cook some tasty burgers instead.

During our cooking activities, we decided to watch some creepy videos on Youtube, which was only natural, since Jenny and I share an affinity for creepy podcasts, videos and stories.

As I was flipping burgers, Jenny began telling me about the ghostly activities she had experienced in her past.

Naturally, I asked her why she hadn’t told these stories on my podcast. Obviously, it was because I am a dumkopf and hadn’t invited her.

So, I rectified that situation and sat down with my good friend and had a chat about the creepy mists, sounds and movements that had haunted her childhood. It was a great conversation and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

This is why I started this podcast. To find out the true, creepy details of the inexplicable things that happen to us as we trod this earth. Listen in, and get a true slice of the bizarre happenings that occur on this side of nowhere.

About last year.

So, last year, right guys?

It was a rough stretch for a lot of folks, myself included. I won’t go into each aching detail but, for the most part, 2016 ate my lunch in more ways than one. Sure, good things happened, great things happened. But I also got bowled over more than once by the tumble cycle of life’s off-balance washing machine.

The best thing that happened last year was that I launched this podcast in March. (Yeah, also my best friend got pregnant and another best friend survived a bad experience, those were great too, haha.) As is often said: hard to believe it’s been almost a year already.

I’ve had an incredible amount of fun making the Nowhere Dispatch thus far. Towards the end of last year, I went through some unusually tough experiences that knocked me out of commission.

I am a mentally ill person. I have severe depression and anxiety disorder, among other things. One of the defining features of these conditions is that I have a tough time recovering from bad situations. So, as a result, I spent much of the end of 2016 sprawled on a couch, sucking up countless hours of daytime TV because I couldn’t handle much more than being a gelatinous blob.

One of the quirks of mental illness is that I can get really wrapped up in dark subjects. This can be handy, especially when it comes to this podcast.

In the weird, shaking dawn of 2017, I’ve found myself getting wrapped up in work on the podcast and I notice the world falling away. I’m still in the middle of some very difficult and challenging situations but working on these episodes helps me keep my feet on the ground and my head screwed on straight.

Again, and with total humility and gratitude, thank you for listening to the Nowhere Dispatch. You guys are one of the best things I’ve got going in my weird, confusing life at the moment. So I’ll keep churning out strange and creepy stories as long as you kots and koshkas keep clicking that play button.

I’m looking forward to the next episode and my one-year anniversary of the podcast. I just checked my stats after being logged out for awhile and the listener response is better than ever.

Let’s keep on wandering farther into Nowhere.

Creepy Sh#t Part 13 – The Killough Massacre

I watched a lot of John Wayne movies when I was growing up. In a lot of those old films, the Indians were the bad guys. If they weren’t the bad guys, they were often cast as the “noble savages” who practiced weird rituals and had access to mystical knowledge.

Of course, that’s total nonsense. The Native North Americans were human beings, not

Historical marker placed at the massacre site in 1965.

vicious savages or tree-hugging nature wizards. Most importantly, they were the rightful owners of the land where they lived and some groups, contrary to some historical myths, very much believed in ownership and property rights.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with U.S. and Texas history knows that Native North American groups were slaughtered wholesale by white European settlers, whether by warfare, disease or relocation. Of course, these were real people and they warred with other tribes and may have depleted their own resources as well. This doesn’t excuse the actions of the “God is with us” Europeans, obviously.

Plaque on the monument describing the “Indian” massacre.

My whole point is that there was a real conflict, a genuine struggle for survival that played out on the ground right under my feet less than 200 years ago. That’s just a few generations.

I don’t remember when I first heard about the Killough Massacre. I visited the historical site a year or two ago and I remembered it when I got the idea for this episode. I’d read some articles about the problem of Texas historical markers that portray Native Americans as savages or violent warriors who preyed on innocent white settlers.

I’m not talented, well-known or wealthy enough to take on the state of Texas and make them rewrite all of their inaccurate historical markers. But I live just down the road from one and I can tell all you Nowhere wanderers the truth about what happened one October day in 1838. Tune in and peel back the dark clouds of history.

One of the graves at the monument, damaged by time.