Episode 28 – Shadows in Athens

Some towns aren’t quite like the others. Some towns have secrets.

One of those is close to me, right here in the middle of nowhere.

Medford Fuller’s grave, surrounded by virgin stone and iron chains.

There is a town called Athens. For many years, locals and those abroad have been talking about this town. Some claim that there are tunnels beneath the streets or devil worshippers in the forest.

The virgin stone pillar, drenched in a liquid red substance.

Others claim that the town was built by dark magicians, intent on any means to secure their prosperity.

Some say the tunnels beneath the city exist to this day.

The gazebos in the woods at Fuller Park, possibly the site of the monkey cages.

Still others say that the secrets are no secrets at all and that the strange happenings in town are no mystery. What is the truth? Listen in as I explain the shadows in Athens and make up your own mind about what is happening out here among the pines.

Episode 27 – Ken’s Apparitions

There is something to be said for the power of personal experience. Of course, memory is not always a faithful narrator and our own beliefs may color the memories that we make. Yet, in the face of our own doubt, we simply cannot slip free of the power of a mesmerizing event.

Paranormal encounters are routinely dismissed as nonsense, made-up events that are the result of fear, anxiety or simply wishful thinking. But just try telling that to someone who was encountered the paranormal firsthand. It’s not so easy to discount these stories when the person telling them recalls them with clarity and conviction.

In this episode, I sat down with my friend Ken to listen to him relate some paranormal encounters in his past. I could see in his face, and you can likely hear in his voice, that his stories were not some attempt to scare or startle anyone. They were a faithful retelling of events as he remembered them, and there were no attempts on his part at embellishment or exaggeration.

His stories are as fascinating as they are chilling. They left an impression on me and I imagine that they will do the same to you, dear listener. Whether you are a believer or if you hold on to doubt, there is no denying the power and impact of a ghostly tale. Listen in and decide for yourself the truth of paranormal events out here in the Piney Woods.

Episode 23 – The Backwoods Illuminati

Strange clouds in the sky.

Shadowy organizations infiltrating the government.

Worldwide conspiracies hatching sinister plots.

Do you believe in conspiracy theories? I may not be a believer, personally, but I’m certainly fascinated. I’ve always been interested in plumbing the depths of conspiracy theories watching conspiracy documentaries on YouTube and discussing these bizarre theories with my friends.

I was surprised to learn that East Texas has played a role in several major conspiracy theories in recent years.

In fact, the Masonic Order, long believed to be a front for the Illuminati, a secretive group that aims to control the world, played a hand in the founding of Texas. One of the first Western explorers of Texas was a Mason and a large portion of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence were Masonic members. Are they simply a club for prominent, wealthy men or is there something else at work?

Holland Lodge, the oldest Masonic Lodge in Texas, located in Houston.

 

In 2015, the United States government launched a military training exercise in the Southern and Southwestern United states. Ostensibly, this operation was intended to allow US military units to gain realistic training experience in terrain similar to combat areas in the Middle East. However, conspiracy theorists argue that this is actually a front for the military to prepare to launch martial law on unsuspecting citizens. I myself saw trucks and trains full of military equipment moving around at this time. A training exercise or preparation for a nationwide takeover?

 

 

Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was regarded as a natural event by most, he was advanced in age and had health problems, after all. But some conspiracy theorists argued that he had been murdered by government agents in order to change the balance of power on the Supreme Court. They point to the fact that strange, seemingly occult items were found in the building where he died and the building also contained texts on global domination and power. It’s alleged that this is a precursor to an overthrow of our democratic way of life. Here’s a link to an InfoWars (yeah, I know, not super reliable but they’re the conspiracy clearing  house) article about this strange incident:

Scalia’s Death Linked to Bohemian Grove, Illuminati

What do you think, Nowhere wanderer? Are conspiracy theorists simply finding patterns where there are none or are they piercing the veil of secrecy that surrounds our society? You make the call after you listen in.

 

 

Episode 22 – 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.

 

Episode 21 – 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:

 

Episode 20 – 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.

 

Episode 19 – 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:

 

 

 

Episode 18 – 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.

Episode 17 – 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.

 

Episodes 15 & 16 – 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.