Episode 12 – Who The F#@% Was Lori Erica Ruff?

You really can find the strangest things online. I have a habit of digging around on the Internet for weird, unsolved and creepy stories. That’s the main reason I stared broadcasting the Nowhere Dispatch to all of you lovely people in the first place.

Earlier this year, I stumbled across a post on Imgur about mysterious and unsolved cases. Buried in the list of weird stories and strange occurrences, I found out about the then-unsolved case of Lori Erica Ruff.

This woman was an enigma. She had married a man and had a child with him despite her bizarre behavior and her reluctance to reveal her secretive past. Eventually, her behavior placed a strain on their marriage and her husband filed for a divorce.

The Texas Driver's license that Lori obtained when she moved to Texas and changed her name in the 90s.
The Texas Driver’s license that Lori obtained when she moved to Texas and changed her name in the 90s.

This set into motion a weird series of events, which ultimately culminated in Lori’s tragic suicide, right here in my own town of Longview. However, her death was just the start of her unreal saga.

After her passing, her husband’s family began digging into her past. They were shocked to find that Lori Erica Ruff was not her real name. In fact, her name previous to the marriage had been Becky Sue Turner. This was equally bizarre because that was the name of a two-year-old girl who had died in a house fire in 1971. They found strange items in Lori’s house, including an obituary for Becky Sue Turner and a scrap of paper covered in inscrutable scribblings.

The strange note found in Lori's lockbox after her suicide, containing the phrases "402 months", "North Hollywood police" and "Ben Perkins".
The strange note found in Lori’s lockbox after her suicide, containing the phrases “402 months”, “North Hollywood police” and “Ben Perkins”.

From there, things ran into a dead end. The family eventually shared their story with a retired investigator who pursed the case of identity theft for another three years. He sifted through the details of her life and the jumbled collection of clues she left behind. He, too, ran into a dead end, despite finding out a few details about Lori/Becky’s mysterious past.

It wasn’t until three years later, with the help of a forensic genealogist, that the truth would finally come out.

When I first came upon Lori’s case in early 2016, her true identity was still unknown. When I found the case again in September of this year, her identity had been revealed only a few days earlier.

It was then that I knew that I had to share this story with you, nowhere wanderers. This case caught the attention of the world and it revolved around events right here where I live, smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

This is what it’s all about, ladies and germs. Tune in to this weird tale in the latest installment of the Dispach, dear listeners. I have always been fascinated by bizarre and inexplicable stories and this one is, perhaps, the most infamous that I have released on the podcast.

Also: exciting news! The response to the Nowhere Dispatch has been incredible. We’re still a small operation but we’re growing fast. In the coming weeks, stay tuned for updates about a Patreon that I’ll be creating for the pocast so that you can help me bring you the stories that captivate us all and, in return, you’ll get some cool shit!

 

Episode 11 – The Beatles Bonfire

A Beatles Bonfire near Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, August 12th, 1966.
A Beatles Bonfire near Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, August 12th, 1966.

Do you like rock music? I certainly do, always have. Most of my friends do, too. There’s nothing remarkable about that, though. Many people feel the same way. But it’s a bit different, I think, because music is how I found most of the people that I came to trust and love. It was that way growing up and it’s that way to this day. I play music (though not as much as I should) and it’s led me to a lot of wacky places.

Music also separates people, like weird little fences that we smack down to mark out minefields. If you can dig on a tune with someone else who digs it equally, everything comes up roses and daisies. But if someone is just totally into a genre that makes you grind your teeth, no cups of wine will be crushed betwixt you, y’know?

All of East Texas is like that. From high school on up to today, people blast country at the people blasting punk who are blasting at the people blasting rap. It’s dumb, really, but I get it. Even when I moved away from East Texas for six years, it was like that, to a lesser degree.

Apparently, things were much the same here in Longview back in the 60s. On a certain

Beatles Bonfire in Longview, TX, August 12, 1966.
Beatles Bonfire in Longview, TX, August 12, 1966.

evening, almost 50 years ago to the day, some people who weren’t too happy with a certain rock group took torches to vinyl in protest.

It was 1966. The Beatles were the biggest act that ever was or ever would be. Even here in the middle of nowhere, folks were shimmying and head-bobbing to “Love Me Do” and “I Saw Her Standing There”. Then John Lennon had to let everyone know that he thought the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus.”

That, to put it mildly, is not something that you say around here. The response was swift and incendiary. All across the American South, local radio DJs refused to play Beatles records and held “Beatles Bonfires”, inviting kids of all ages to come out and torch all of their Beatles records, pictures and memorabilia in a public conflagration.

It didn’t end there though. The DJ at the Longview rock radio station KLUE sponsored and directed a Beatles Bonfire right here in town. The next day, a sudden late summer storm flared up and a bolt of lightning struck the broadcast antenna of KLUE, frying most of their equipment and sending that same station manager to the hospital.

Cosmic justice? Probably not. After all, assuming that the lightning strike was divine retribution goes against everything that Lennon said in the first place.

Anti-Beatles sign posted near Beaver Meadows, Pennsylvania, August 10th, 1966.
Anti-Beatles sign posted near Beaver Meadows, Pennsylvania, August 10th, 1966.

But, if you’ve ever rocked out the the Beatles in your pickup and watched storm clouds roll in over the horizon, you have to admit that an errant lightning bolt is just a bit creepy, even if it was deserved.

At the very least, the photographs of the Beatles Bonfire phenomenon are truly eerie. Enjoy, nowhere wanderers.

 

Creepy Sh#t Part 10 – Longview’s Burning

Fire is, and always has been, fascinating. It scares us as much as it serves us. When fires rage out of control, we can be reduced to an almost powerless state.

I think that the unpredictability and power of fire is one of the reasons that the crime of arson is so heinous. In 2016 alone, 17 potential cases of arson have occurred in Longview, with 13 of them occurring in the span of just a few weeks. There’s a chance that these fires are tied to a local gang and that association takes the case much deeper.

A map of the earliest fires of 2016, some just a few streets apart from one another.
A map of the earliest fires of 2016, some just a few streets apart from one another.

Some gang members are associated with a local record label which released a viral music video, while members of the gang were being picked up for weapons violations.

How deep does this connection go? What is the reason behind all these fires?

Sharing a town with firebugs can be a frightening thing. Tune in to learn more about these unsolved arson cases.

 

 

UPDATE 21 September 2016: On August 26, the Longview News-Journal released a very brief article online stating that “several suspects” had been arrested in connection with arson incidents in Longview. No suspects were named and the article stated that law enforcement officials were investigating suspects who were already jailed on other charges. In addition, the police department is waiting on several grand jury indictments to be returned before proceeding. The Longview Fire Marshal claimed that tips from local residents assisted in the investigation. The article did not specify which cases of arson were associated with the suspects but it’s still early in the investigation. I’ll post more updates as I find them.

Episode 9 – The Disappearance of Brandi Wells

It’s been said that people go missing all the time. According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, 90,000 people are missing at any given time in this country. Where do they all go? How many make it home?

These questions bother me. I’m sure we’ve all known someone who disappeared from our lives suddenly. A co-worker who stopped showing up for work. A friend who took off with a new partner to the other side of the country. Have you ever wondered if those people were taken or led astray? I don’t think that’s as morbid as it sounds. After all, these things happen and they happen everywhere.

They happened right here, in Longview, in the middle of Nowhere almost exactly 10 years ago. Brandi Wells was last seen leaving a popular nightclub just after midnight in August of 2006. She hasn’t been seen since.

The mysterious man in the white cowboy hat who was seen leaving the club immediately after Brandi Wells.
The mysterious man in the white cowboy hat who was seen leaving the club immediately after Brandi Wells.

But the case didn’t stop there. Her car was found five days later. Three separate men were caught using her cell phone after her disappearance. Then, over three years later, her mother received a mysterious phone call from a man claiming to know where Brandi lived.

Despite all these leads, the case remains unsolved. No one, at least no one who is looking, seems to know where Brandi Wells is. Her case has been featured on national crime shows and now, 10 years later, the local paper is printing her story on the front page.

People are still looking for Brandi Wells. I don’t know if she will ever be found but I hope, for her family’s sake, that the truth comes out. The middle of Nowhere is a lonely place, we need to keep our friends and loved ones close.

Tune in to this episode of the Dispatch to learn about this mysterious disappearance.

The former Graham's Central Station where Brandi was last seen. Now known as the Electric Cowboy/Lone Star Ice House.
The former Graham’s Central Station where Brandi was last seen. Now known as the Electric Cowboy/Lone Star Ice House.

If you or someone you know has credible information about the whereabouts of Brandi Wells or about her disappearance, you can contact the Longview Police Department here: (903) 237-1199. Credible info only, please. Spurious tips and information may only muddy the waters, so to speak.

Another shot of the club to show the massive size of the parking lot where Brandi disappeared. This is only a section, there is much more past the edges of the photo.
Another shot of the club to show the massive size of the parking lot where Brandi disappeared. This is only a section, there is much more past the edges of the photo.

Episode 8 – Cults

What’s the deal with cults?

I’ve always wondered that. What exactly drives someone to give up their identity to be assimilated into a new group? Loneliness? Fear? Boredom?

I don’t have the answers to those questions but my friend Adam and I sat down to talk about cults anyway. Adam brought up this topic when he found out about a strange Russian cult that worships (of all things) Gadget from the Rescue Rangers. Now, that sounds weird, and it is. Even so, a group of folks, albeit a small group, has banded together with a common cause that many others would find entirely strange, even a bit creepy.

Of course, there are far creepier cults out there. Jim Jones and the People’s Temple. Marshall Applewhite and Heaven’s Gate. Ol’ Chuck Manson and his kooky acid-munching murderous followers. I honestly don’t understand how those people could look at themselves objectively and not reach the conclusion that they were part of a mind-bending, reality-denying train that was speeding towards destruction. Then again, maybe they did and they just weren’t allowed to leave.

Whatever the case, cults are entirely fascinating. Here in Longview, there have been rumors and jokes since I was a kid about the Longview Baptist Temple, or LBT. (Affectionately mocked as “Lettuce-Bacon-Tomato”.) I heard stories about their bizarre behavior as a kid and a teenager. For example, I heard that they locked the doors to the sanctuary during services so that no one could leave, not even to go the bathroom. On the episode, Adam shares some truly creepy tales about the way that this so-called bus ministry tried to snag new recruits.

As we state on the podcast, we are in no way insinuating that Longview Baptist Temple is any type of cult. For all we know, they’re just a standard Baptist church with some weird practices. That’s not really the point, though. The point is the story. We always heard tales as kids that really creeped us out. And that’s what this podcast is all about. Weird, creepy local stories. Every town’s got ’em. And this is one from my town.

I hope you enjoy our discussion. Does your town have any local cults? You might be surprised, especially if you live in the middle of Nowhere.

 

Episode 7 – Red Summer

This summer has burned. Literally and metaphorically. We’ve seen innocent people murdered in the streets and the tally of the dead continues to grow. Racial anger and the violence that it engenders is a massive problem that we, as a society, have refused to acknowledge for a long time.

But it’s not a new problem. Right here, in the heart of Longview, we have witnessed this struggle before. In the hot, reckless summer of 1919, the entire country was wracked by a spasm of anger, as whites and blacks battled for equality, decent jobs and fair pay.

Sometimes, that struggle ended in bloodshed and burned houses. That’s how it went down in Longview.

Near the spot on Methvin Street where Samuel Jones was beaten by the two brothers.
Near the spot on Methvin Street where Samuel Jones was beaten by the two brothers.

In July 1919, Longview erupted. People were murdered for the color of their skin and their attempts to make better lives for themselves.

Our current summer in the dread year of our lord 2016 is not so very different.

If we can talk about the things that are killing us, maybe our fellow citizens can stop dying in the streets.

 

 

In front of the courthouse where the Texas National Guard set up their command post when martial law was imposed by Governor Hobby.
In front of the courthouse where the Texas National Guard set up their command post when martial law was imposed by Governor Hobby.

 

 

 

Episode 6 – Stagecoach Road

If you have listened to a few episodes of The Nowhere Dispatch, it’s probably a safe bet that you enjoy folklore, urban legends and weird local tales. I’m much the same way which is a big reason I started this podcast.

What is it about these stories that captivates us so reliably and completely?

Is it the fact that we know they probably aren’t true but we can imagine them taking place? Is it because they’re about our own hometowns?

I’m really not sure. What I’m sure of, however, is that these stories draw some people like iron filings to a magnet.

Stagecoach Road
At the beginning of my trip down the road. The dirt walls rise as high as 12-15 feet.

I’m not sure exactly when I first heard about Stagecoach Road, though I believe it was sometime in high school. I just heard about it in passing, yet another local story about a haunted road. I can’t recall if I really wanted to go out there but, all these years later, the legend popped up squarely in my mind.

I figured that it was a perfect fit for this podcast because it is rife with legends and it has a strong tie to local history. Why not take a trip out there and drive the road?

At the time I recorded this podcast, I’d just been through a very difficult experience. I remarked afterwards that my trip out to the road was partially fueled by my lack of self-preservation in the face of this tough situation. I rode that adrenaline like a drug as my tires kicked up clouds of dust and I dove deeper into the guts of the forest.

It was so isolated out there. So impossibly alone. I love horror movies that focus on the loneliness and the isolation of the woods. That’s far more frightening to me than a hulking brute wielding a hockey mask and a machete at a summer camp.

Stagecoach Road Bridge
The bridge I crossed on Stagecoach Road. I don’t think it’s the “haunted” bridge but it was creepy all the same. That’s not fog over the road, it’s a combination of the dust my tires kicked up and condensation on my camera lens after stepping out of the A/C in my car into the sweltering heat.

The isolation carries the real weight of the fear. I hope some of that comes through in this episode. I’m sure I rambled too much (you can actually hear my Texas accent and idioms coming through on the field recordings. I do that when I’m really nervous.) but I hope the feeling of isolation is apparent enough.

 

Middle of Nowhere
The scariest thing I saw on the road. I checked Google Maps throughout the trip but, at one point, the map dropped away and I realized that I was potentially lost as hell and low on gas. Freaked me right the hell out.

 

Oh, one more thing. Always, always, always fuel up your car before you decide to explore a legendary haunted road in the middle of nowhere when July heat turns everything into an oven. A word to the wise as well as the foolish.

We All Fall Down
One of the many pieces of graffiti I saw on the road. “We all fall down”, indeed.

On the episode, I mentioned an investigation conducted on the road by Sonshine Paranormal in Fort Worth. They snapped a photo of the Woman in White, which you can see here. Check out this page for a bit of backstory on the history of Stagecoach Road.

Episode 5 – Adam’s Ghosts

I have always been fascinated by ghost stories. Well, fascinated and terrified. I wasn’t really allowed to watch horror movies as a kid. Religious upbringing and all that. I actually didn’t see “The Exorcist” until I was in my mid-20s so I was pretty out of the loop for a few years in regards to scary films. When I was about 10, I watched “Scream” at a friend’s house and my heart nearly beat out of my chest. Everyone else thought it was no big deal but scary stories and movies had more power and import for me since they were entirely verboten in my household.

I got all my ghost stories from books of terrifying tales and late-night legends around the campfire in Boy Scouts. In a way, that was even more terrifying than a horror movie because I was forced to fill in the gaps and details with my wildly overcharged imagination. I distinctly recall working myself up until I was actually shaking from fear simply by letting creepy scenarios play out in my head.

This fascination with the paranormal and the frightening things that lurk in the dark continues for me even today. When I first moved back to Longview in 2011, I spent many nights staying up late watching “Ghost Adventures”. Yeah, I know it’s a corny show and there are allegations that much of it was staged. Still, I had no friends, no job and little to do so I’d plunk down in a chair and suck up marathons of this show. I’d wander through the dark house to smoke a cigarette on the back porch and nearly jump at shadows as my mind raced with thoughts of EVPs and mysteriously thrown objects.

Watching that show really made me want to try ghost hunting. I had no equipment, no money and no haunted locations to explore but the desire was there all the same. Once, while over at my girlfriend’s house, we heard strange noises from her daughter’s room, which was empty at the time. I took out my phone and conducted an impromptu EVP session. I got no eerie, disembodied voices on the recording but I still thought it was a fascinating experience.

Now, I’m very lucky to be good friends with a guy who has actually been on many ghost hunts right here in East Texas. He’s conducted his own ghost tours and gone on hunts with official paranormal groups in Tyler. In addition to having this fascinating hobby, he’s also a world-class storyteller, probably the best one I know.

His name is Adam and I’m confident that you’ll dig his tales of haunted houses and spooky locations. I sat down with him to listen to a few of his ghosting stories. I enjoyed them so much that I’m sure I’ll have him back on the Dispatch to relate more tales. Check out our conversation and, if you like his style (as I’m sure you will), be sure to check out his Twitch stream. I’ve been on the stream a few times and it’s doing really well so be sure to show him some love. Enjoy the episode, fellow travelers through Nowhere.

Episode 4 – The Caddo

Ever been on a lake where the Spanish moss hangs like spiderwebs and shadows dart beneath the surface of the green-brown water? There’s one in my corner of the world that has a story to tell.

Caddo Lake was part of my childhood. I swam in it, canoed on it and fished in it, albeit unsuccessfully. I knew it had a history but I was scant on details.

I decided to tell you about this lake for two reasons:

  1. My own unbridled curiosity.
  2. It’s a damn good story.

History often bears out the telling. In fact, it frequently demands it.

There were people here, long before white folks showed up. Matter of fact, they were doing a very good job of running the place until they were abruptly and violently usurped from the symbiotic relationship they had with the area.

There’s no accounting for the greed of men who come from far away for the sole purpose of taking what they want.

But the land remembers. Though the people are gone, the trees, the hollow places and the still air in the forest are possessed of a keen recollection.

You all know what happens when you do wrong for a long enough stretch of time. It catches up to you.

I’ll tell you about one way in which Caddo reached up and delivered vengeance on the people who tried to claim it. You see, there are some kinds of wild that you can’t tame. We’d do well to remember that.

Episode – The Kentucky Fried Chicken Murders

The 1980s were big and they were loud. Big, loud music and bigger, louder hair. When you think about this decade, you probably picture Poison music videos and d-bags in Armani suits snorting coke in the bathroom. I basically hate this whole decade, though I was born in it. (True, there were a few bright spots: Nirvana’s first album, the Pixies, Violent Femmes, the NES and a couple of great horror flicks.)

We might forget that small towns still existed in that weird and wild decade. They were just as small and insignificant as they are today, though perhaps the mustaches were a bit more heinous back then.

Okay, that’s enough joking. This is a serious episode.

You heard about Kilgore, Texas in Part 1 of Creepy Sh#t. Well, it was much the same in the ’80s as when I went to school there from 2005 to 2007. But one hot, ugly day, something happened in Kilgore that would send a shiver down the necks of local folks for the next two decades.

An empty restaurant, scattered trash, everything in disarray. That was the first discovery in a sickening chain of events that preceded the sight of a gruesome crime scene. It was and is the worst murder that town has ever seen.

Five lives, snuffed out in the dirt.

Few things are as terrifying as random, sudden violence. Listen in to learn about the mass murder that sent a small town reeling and set off a manhunt that didn’t conclude until just a few years ago.