The Midnight Train Podcast
Near Death Experiences

Near Death Experiences

October 19, 2020

Near Death Experiences


Near death experience, or NDE is an unusual, profound, personal experience taking place on the brink of death and recounted by a person after recovery, typically an out-of-body experience or a vision of a tunnel of light. Supposedly, when these experiences are positive, they may encompass a variety of sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light. When they’re considered negative, these experiences may include sensations of anguish distress or peeing your pants. 


Of course, we’re going to get super nerdy here so bear with us while Jeff snores in the background. Some explanations for NDEs range from scientific to religious. Oh boy! Neuroscience research suggests that an NDE is a subjective phenomenon resulting from "disturbed bodily multisensory integration" that occurs during life-threatening events, as per Olaf Blanke’s 2009 book, “The Neurology of Consciousness”, while some transcendental and religious beliefs about an afterlife include descriptions similar to NDEs.


The French term “expérience de mort imminente” which isn’t a delicious French dip sandwich, actually means “experience of imminent death” and was proposed by French psychologist and epistemologist Victor Egger as a result of discussions in the 1890s among philosophers and psychologists concerning climbers' stories of the panoramic life review during falls. Yes. falls. In 1892 a series of subjective observations by workers falling from scaffolds, war soldiers who suffered injuries, climbers who had fallen from heights or other individuals who had come close to death (like driving in a car with Moody) was reported by Albert Heim. This was also the first time the phenomenon was described as clinical syndrome. In 1968 Celia Green published an analysis of 400 first-hand accounts of out-of-body experiences in her book, boringly and obviously called “Out-of-the-body Experiences”.  This was the first attempt to provide a classification of such experiences, viewed simply as anomalous perceptual experiences, or hallucinations. In 1969, Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published her groundbreaking book On Death and Dying: What the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy, and their own families. Fuck! These book names are so long! These experiences were also popularized by the work of psychiatrist Raymond Moody, which may or may not be Moody’s drunken uncle,  in 1975 coined the term "near-death experience" (NDE) as an umbrella term for the different elements (out of body experiences, the "panoramic life review," the Light, the tunnel, or the border). Also, The term "near-death experience" had already been used by John C. Lilly in 1972.


Ok, let’s talk about some common traits of near death experiences.


Researchers have identified the common traits that define near-death experiences, according to Mauro, James Mauro in his book "Bright lights, big mystery.” Bruce Greyson argues that the general features of the experience include impressions of being outside one's physical body, visions of deceased relatives and religious figures, and transcendence of egotic and spatiotemporal boundaries. At this point, Some if you and especially Jeff are asking “what in the fuck is spatiotemporal boundaries!?!” Well, that shit refers to perception of continuous contours, shape, and global motion from sequential transformations of widely separated surface elements. How such minimal information in SBF can produce whole forms and the nature of the computational processes involved remain mysterious. YA GOT ALL THAT?! 

 Many common elements have been reported, although the person's interpretation of these events, obviously, often corresponds with the cultural, philosophical, or religious beliefs of the person experiencing it. For example, in the US, where 46% of the population believes in guardian angels, they will often be identified as angels or deceased loved ones (or will be unidentified), while Hindus will often identify them as messengers of the god of death, according to the Bruce Greyson book “The handbook of near-death experiences thirty years of investigation” and Mary J. Kennard‘s book, "A Visit from an Angel". Interestingly, NDEs are no more likely to occur in devout believers than in secular or nonpracticing subjects.


A 2017 study by two researchers at the University of Virginia raised the question of whether the paradox of enhanced cognition occurring alongside compromised brain function during an NDE could be written off as a flight of imagination. The researchers administered a questionnaire to 122 people who reported NDEs. They asked them to compare memories of their experiences with those of both real and imagined events from about the same time. The results suggest that the NDEs were recalled with greater vividness and detail than either real or imagined situations were. In short, the NDEs were remembered as being “realer than real.”


Ok, now! Some Common traits that have been reported by NDErs are as follows:


A sense/awareness of being dead.


A sense of peace, well-being and painlessness.


Positive emotions. A sense of removal from the world.


An out-of-body experience. A perception of one's body from an outside position, sometimes observing medical professionals performing resuscitation efforts.


A "tunnel experience" or entering a darkness. A sense of moving up, or through, a passageway or staircase.


A rapid movement toward and/or sudden immersion in a powerful light (or "Being of Light") which communicates with the person.


An intense feeling of unconditional love and acceptance.


Encountering "Beings of Light", "Beings dressed in white", or similar. Also, the possibility of being reunited with deceased loved ones.


Receiving a life review, commonly referred to as "seeing one's life flash before one's eyes".


Approaching a border or a decision by oneself or others to return to one's body, often accompanied by a reluctance to return.


Suddenly finding oneself back inside one's body.


Connection to the cultural beliefs held by the individual, which seem to dictate some of the phenomena experienced in the NDE and particularly the later interpretation thereof.


Let’s now talk about the Stages of a NDE

Kenneth Ring subdivided the NDE on a five-stage continuum. The subdivisions were:[21]



Body separation

Entering darkness

Seeing the light

Entering the light


Charlotte Martial, a neuropsychologist from the University of Liège and University Hospital of Liège who led a team that investigated 154 different NDE cases, concluded that there is not a fixed sequence of events. So, basically, she’s like “fuck that other guy.”


Kenneth Ring also argues that attempted suicides do not lead more often to unpleasant NDEs than unintended near-death situations. But, you know how Charlotte Martial feels about that dude and his shitty opinions. 


In one series of NDE's, 22% occurred during general anesthesia.


The underlying neurological sequence of events in a near-death experience is difficult to determine with any precision because of the dizzying variety of ways in which the brain can be damaged. Furthermore, NDEs do not strike when the individual is lying inside a magnetic scanner or has his or her scalp covered by a net of electrodes! Interesting…

Ok so what exactly happened to your brain during an NDE? 


It is possible to gain some idea of what happens by examining a cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops beating (the patient is “coding,” in hospital jargon). The patient has not died, because the heart can be jump-started via cardiopulmo-nary resuscitation.


    Modern death requires irreversible loss of brain function. When the brain is starved of blood flow (ischemia) and oxygen (anoxia), the patient faints in a fraction of a minute and his or her electroencephalogram, or EEG, becomes isoelectric—in other words, flat. This implies that large-scale, spatially distributed electrical activity within the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain, has broken down. Like a town that loses power one neighborhood at a time, local regions of the brain go offline one after another. Similar to Jon's brain on a Saturday night after drinking alot or maybe like all of us when we do our high movie review! The mind, whose substrate is whichever neurons remain capable of generating electrical activity, does what it always does: it tells a story shaped by the person’s experience, memory and cultural expectations.


Given these power outages, this experience may produce the rather strange and idiosyncratic stories that make up the corpus of NDE reports. To the person undergoing it, the NDE is as real as anything the mind produces during normal waking. When the entire brain has shut down because of complete power loss, the mind is extinguished, along with consciousness. If and when oxygen and blood flow are restored, the brain boots up, and the narrative flow of experience resumes.


Scientists have videotaped, analyzed and dissected the loss and subsequent recovery of consciousness in highly trained individuals—U.S. test pilots and NASA astronauts in centrifuges during the cold war (recall the scene in the 2018 movie First Man of a stoic Neil Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling, being spun in a multiaxis trainer until he passes out). Or like Jon on the Tilt A Whirl.  At around five times the force of gravity, the cardiovascular system stops delivering blood to the brain, and the pilot faints. About 10 to 20 seconds after these large g-forces cease, consciousness returns, accompanied by a comparable interval of confusion and disorientation (subjects in these tests are obviously very fit and pride themselves on their self-control).


The range of phenomena these men recount may amount to “NDE lite”—tunnel vision and bright lights; a feeling of awakening from sleep, including partial or complete paralysis; a sense of peaceful floating; out-of-body experiences; sensations of pleasure and even euphoria; and short but intense dreams, often involving conversations with family members, that remain vivid to them many years afterward. These intensely felt experiences, triggered by a specific physical insult, typically do not have any religious character (perhaps because participants knew ahead of time that they would be stressed until they fainted).


By their very nature, NDEs are not readily amenable to well-controlled laboratory experimentation, cus you know, who the fuck would willingly want to be killed just to try and be brought back and see if they have any NDE. This isn't Flatliners people come on. It may be possible, however,  to study aspects of them in the humble lab mouse—maybe it, too, can experience a review of lifetime memories or euphoria before death.


Many neurologists have noted similarities between NDEs and the effects of a class of epileptic events known as complex partial seizures. These fits partially impair consciousness and often are localized to specific brain regions in one hemisphere. They can be preceded by an aura, which is a specific experience unique to an individual patient that is predictive of an incipient attack. The seizure may be accompanied by changes in the perceived sizes of objects; unusual tastes, smells or bodily feelings; déjà vu; depersonalization; or ecstatic feelings. Episodes featuring the last items on this list are also clinically known as Dostoyevsky’s seizures, after the late 19th-century Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who suffered from severe temporal lobe epilepsy. More than 150 years later neurosurgeons are able to induce such ecstatic feelings by electrically stimulating part of the cortex called the insula in epileptic patients who have electrodes implanted in their brain. This procedure can help locate the origin of the seizures for possible surgical removal. Patients report bliss, enhanced well-being, and heightened self-awareness or perception of the external world. Exciting the gray matter elsewhere can trigger out-of-body experiences or visual hallucinations. This brute link between abnormal activity patterns—whether induced by the spontaneous disease process or controlled by a surgeon’s electrode—and subjective experience provides support for a biological, not spiritual, origin. The same is likely to be true for NDEs. Why the mind should experience the struggle to sustain its operations in the face of loss of blood flow and oxygen as positive and blissful rather than as panic-inducing remains mysterious, especially since life sucks so bad. It is intriguing, though, that the outer limit of the spectrum of human experience encompasses other occasions in which reduced oxygen causes pleasurable feelings of jauntiness, light-headedness and heightened arousal—deepwater diving, high-altitude climbing, flying, the choking or fainting game, and, in Jeff's case, sexual asphyxiation.



NDEs are often associated with changes in personality and outlook on life, according to James Mauro. Ring has identified a consistent set of value and belief changes associated with people who have had a near-death experience. Among these changes, he found a greater appreciation for life, higher self-esteem, greater compassion for others, less concern for acquiring material wealth, a heightened sense of purpose and self-understanding, desire to learn, elevated spirituality, greater ecological sensitivity and planetary concern, and a feeling of being more intuitive. However, not all after-effects are beneficial according to the book by RM Orne titled "The meaning of survival: the early aftermath of a near-death experience" and Greyson describes circumstances where changes in attitudes and behavior can lead to psychosocial and psychospiritual problems.


Here are some actual near death experiences taken from the book “Beyond The Light” by P.M.H Atwater


  1. Jazmyne Cidavia-DeRepentigny of Hull Georgia.  She died on the operating table during surgery in late 1979. 


"I must say that this experience was quite unsettling to say the least.  I was floating over my body.  I could see and hear everything that was being said and done.  I left the room for a short while and then returned to where my body lay.  I knew why I died.  It was because I couldn't breathe.  There was a tube down my throat and the medical staff did not have an oxygen mask on my nose.  I had also been given too much anesthetic.


"In my out-of-body state, I'm using my mind to try and make my right arm and hand move - my arms are extended parallel to my physical body.  I want my right hand to move, any thing to move.  I was trying to pull the tube out of my mouth.  I looked down at my face and tears were streaming.  One of the nurses blotted the tears from my face but she didn't notice my breathing had stopped, nor did she see me next to her.  At this point, I'm trying really hard to make my physical arm move, but it's like my whole body is made of lead."


"I could see my spirit standing before me.  My spirit was so beautifully perfect, dressed in a white gown that was loose, free-flowing, and below the knee.  From my spirit there emanated a bright, soft-white halo.  My spirit was standing six to eight feet from my body.  It was so strange, for I could see my spirit and my spirit could see my pathetic body.  I had not an ounce of color and I looked all withered and cold and lifeless.  My spirit felt warm and so, so celestial.  As my spirit slowly moved away, my spirit told my body goodbye, for my spirit saw the light and wanted to go into it.  The light was like a circular opening that was warm and bright."


  1. Robin Michelle Halberdier of Texas City, Texas, her near-death episode took place in a hospital when she was between one and two months of age.  Born prematurely, and with Hyaline Membrane disease, she was not expected to live


"My first visual memory was looking forward and seeing a brilliant bright light, almost like looking directly at the sun.  The strange thing was that I could see my feet in front of me, as if I were floating upward in a vertical position.  I do not remember passing through a tunnel or anything like that, just floating in the beautiful light.  A tremendous amount of warmth and love came from the light.


"There was a standing figure in the light, shaped like a normal human being, but with no distinct facial features.  It had a masculine presence.  The light I have described seemed like it emanated from that figure.  Light rays shone all around him.  I felt very protected and safe and loved.


"The figure in the light told me through what I now know to be mental telepathy that I must go back, that it was not time for me to come here.  I wanted to stay because I felt so full of joy and so peaceful.  The voice repeated that it wasn't my time; I had a purpose to fulfill and I could come back after I completed it.


"The first time I told my parents about my experience was right after I began to talk.  At the time, I believed that what happened to me was something everyone experienced.  I told my mom and dad about the big glass case I was in after I was born, and the figure in the light and what he said to me.  They took my reference to the glass case to mean the incubator.  My father was a medical student at the time, and he had read a book about near-death experiences.  From comparing the information in the book with what I told them, they decided that's what I was describing.  My mom told me all of this years later when I brought the subject up again.


"I began attending church at the age of five, and I would look at the picture of Jesus in the Bible and tell my mom that's who it was in the light.  I still have many physical difficulties with my health because of being premature.  But there is a strong need inside me that I should help others with what death is, and talk to terminally ill patients.  I was in the other world and I know there is nothing to be afraid of after death."


  1. Bryce Bond, a famous New York City media personality turned parapsychologist, once collapsed after a violent allergic reaction to pine nuts and was rushed to a hospital. 


"I hear a bark, and racing toward me is a dog I once had, a black poodle named Pepe.  When I see him, I feel an emotional floodgate open.  Tears fill my eyes.  He jumps into my arms, licking my face.  As I hold him, he is real, more real than I had ever experienced him.  I can smell him, feel him, hear his breathing, and sense his great joy at being with me again.


"I put my dog on the ground, and step forward to embrace my stepfather, when a very strong voice is heard in my consciousness.  Not yet, it says.  I scream out, Why?  Then this inner voice says, What have you learned, and whom have you helped?  I am dumb-founded.  The voice seems to be from without as well as within.  Everything stops for a moment.  I have to think of what was asked of me.  I cannot answer what I have learned, but I can answer whom I have helped.


"I feel the presence of my dog around me as I ponder those two questions.  Then I hear barking, and other dogs appear, dogs I once had.  As I stand there for what seems to be an eternity.  I want to embrace and be absorbed and merge.  I want to stay.  The sensation of not wanting to come back is overwhelming."


"I heard a voice say, 'Welcome back.'  I never asked who said that nor did I care.  I was told by the doctor that I had been dead for over ten minutes."


  1. Julian A. Milkes, almost hit by a car


"My mother and I were driving out to the lake one afternoon.  My dad was to follow later when he finished work.  We were having company for dinner, and, as we rode along, my mother spotted some wild flowers at the side of the road.  She asked if I wouldn't stop the car and pick them as they would look nice on the dinner table.  I pulled over to the right side of the road (it was not a major highway), parked the car, and went down a small incline to get off the road to pick the flowers.  While I was picking the flowers, a car came whizzing by and suddenly headed straight for me.


"As I looked up and saw what I presumed would be an inevitable death, I separated from my body and viewed what was happening from another perspective.  My whole life flashed in front of me, from that moment backwards to segments of my life.  The review was not like a judgment.  It was passive, more like an interesting novelty.


"I can't tell you how many times I think of that near-death experience.  Even as I sit here and write my story for you, it seems as though it happened only yesterday."


  1. Ernest Hemingway, wounded by shrapnel while fighting on the banks of the river Piave, near Fossalta, Italy.


"Dying is a very simple thing.  I've looked at death and really I know."


"A big Austrian trench mortar bomb, of the type that used to be called ash cans, exploded in the darkness.  I died then.  I felt my soul or something coming right out of my body, like you'd pull a silk handkerchief out of a pocket by one corner.  It flew around and then came back and went in again and I wasn't dead anymore."


"I ate the end of my piece of cheese and took a swallow of wine.  Through the other noise I heard a cough, then came the chuh-chuh-chuh-chuh - then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red and on and on in a rushing wind.  I tried to breathe but my breath would not come and I felt myself rush bodily out of myself and out and out and out and all the time bodily in the wind.  I went out swiftly, all of myself, and I knew I was dead and that it had all been a mistake to think you just died.  Then I floated, and instead of going on I felt myself slide back.  I breathed and I was back."


  1. John R. Liona of Brooklyn, New York


"Mine was a difficult birth, according to my mother.  She said she didn't hear me cry after I was born because I was a 'blue baby.'  They did not bring me to her for two days.  My face was black and blue, and she said the skin was all cut up on the right side of my face.  That's where the forceps slipped.  I was given a tracheotomy to help me breathe.  I am totally deaf in my right ear.  Also, the right side of my face and head is less sensitive than the left.  When I get tired, the right side of my face droops a little, like Bell's palsy.


"I am forty years old now.  All my life going back to my childhood I can remember having this same recurring dream.  It is more vivid than any other dream.  It starts and ends the same - I am kneeling down and bent over, frantically trying to untie some kind of knots.  They almost seem alive.  I am pulling on them and they are thick and slippery.  I am very upset.  Pulling and snapping.  I can't see what they're made of.  I remember getting hit in the face while trying to untie or break free of the knots, and waking up crying.  Then I would go back to sleep thinking it was only a dream or a nightmare.  When the dream would happen again on another night, I would sleep through it longer, as I began to get used to it.


"After I am able to sleep through the knotty part, suddenly my struggling stops.  I feel like a puppet with all the strings cut.  My body goes limp.  All the stress and struggle is drained right out of me.  I feel very calm and peaceful, but wonder what caused me to lose interest in the knots.  They were important one minute; the next minute I am floating in this big bright light.  I know I can't touch the ground because there is light there, too.  I look at the light and try to move toward it.  I can't, and this upsets me.  There is a woman in a long, flowing gown floating away to my left.  I call and call to her but the light is so bright sound does not travel through it.  I want to talk to the woman.  My dream ends there.


"About a year ago, I walk out of my house to go to work.  The ground is wet from rain, yet I find this book lying there - dry.  No one is around, so I pick it up.  The book is called 'CLOSER TO THE LIGHT,' by Melvin Morse, M.D., and Paul Perry.  It is on the near-death experiences of children.  That night I start reading it and cannot put it down.  For the first time in my life, I now understand my dream.  Those knots were when I struggled in the womb with the umbilical cord; getting hit in the face is when the doctor grabbed me with the forceps, then I died.  After that, I went into the light.


"But, wait a second.  You're not supposed to remember being born.  We don't just sit around at parties and talk about what we remember of our birth.  We only talk about what our parents tell us.  I look forward to having my dream again.  I'm ready now to experience more of it than before, and without being upset."


  1. Jeanne L. Eppley of Columbus, Ohio


"My experience happened during the birth of my first child.  For many years I blamed it on the anesthetic.  I had three more children without pain because I believed that if there wasn't any pain, I wouldn't have to have anesthetics that caused experiences like this.  Living proof of mind over matter, right?


"What happened was this: Everything was bright yellow.  There was a tiny black dot in the center of all the yellow.  Somehow I knew that the dot was me.  The dot began to divide.  First there was two, then four, then eight.  After there had been enough division, the dots formed into a pinwheel and began to spin.  As the pinwheel spun, the dots began to rejoin in the same manner as they had divided.  I knew that when they were all one again, I would be dead, so I began to fight.  The next thing I remember is the doctor trying to awaken me and keep me on the delivery table, because I was getting up.


"When my daughter was born, her head was flattened from her forehead to a point in back.  They told me that she had lodged against my pelvic bone.  But the doctor had already delivered two others that night and was in a hurry to get home.  He took her with forceps.  I've often wondered if my experience was actually hers, instead."


"I survived and became very strong.  Before it happened I was a very weak person who had depended on others all my life.  It constantly amazes me that people talk about how much they admire my strength.  I developed a lot of character having lived this life and raising four children alone.  I can honestly say that I like and respect myself now.  I did not when the near-death experience happened.  I believe maybe it was sent to show me that I could be strong.  I certainly needed that strength in the years that came after."


  1. Gloria Hipple of Blakeslee, Pennsylvania


"My incident took place in August of 1955.  I had been taken to Middlesex Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, due to a miscarriage.  Placed in a ward because I was a military dependent, the doctor who was to care for me never came.  I was placed at a forty-five-degree angle due to bleeding and was left that way for almost eight days.  No one heard my pleas.  By the eighth day, I could not hear anyone, my eyes could not see, and I was later told that my body temperature registered 87.6 degrees.  I should have been dead.


"I recall being pulled down into a spinning vortex.  At first, I did not know what was happening.  Then I realized my body was being drawn downward, head first.  I panicked and fought, trying to grab at the sides of the vortex.  All I could think of was my two children.  No one would care for them.  I pleaded, Please, not now, but I kept moving downward.


"I tried to see something, but all there was to see was this cyclonic void that tapered into a funnel.  I kept grabbing at the sides but my fingers had nothing to grasp.  Terror set in, true terror.  I saw a black spot, darker than the funnel and like a black curtain, falling in front of me.  Then there was a white dot, like a bright light at the end of the funnel.  But as I grew closer, it was a small white skull.  It became larger, grinning at me with bare sockets and gaping mouth, and traveling straight toward me like a baseball.  Not only was I terrified, I was really livid, too.  I struggled to grab hold of anything to keep me from falling, but the skull loomed larger.  'My kids, my baby is so little.  My little boy, he's only two years old.  No!'  My words rang in my head and ears.  With a bellowing yell, I screamed: 'No!  damn it, no!  Let me go.  My babies need me!  No!  No!  No!  No!'


"The skull shattered into fragments and I slowed in movement.  A white light, the brightest light I have ever known or will ever see again was in place of the skull.  It was so bright yet it did not blind me.  It was a welcome, calming light.  The black spot or curtain was gone.  I felt absolute peace of mind and sensed myself floating upward, and I was back.  I heard my husband calling me, off in the distance.  I opened my eyes but could not see him.  Two doctors were at the foot of my bed - both were angry and compassionate at the same time.  I was taken to the operating room, given several pints of blood, and was released one week later.


"No one would believe my handshake with the grim reaper.  Scoffers almost put me in tears.  Everyone laughed at me, including my husband, so I never told my story again - until I wrote to you.  It was the most horrendous, yet the most gratifying experience I've ever had in my life."


And another  in 1943 during a tonsillectomy 


"Ether was the sedation used to put me to sleep.  I recall being terrified by the mask and the awful smell.  I can still taste it as I think about it.  As the sedation took hold, there was the vortex, the dizzy spinning sensation, as I was dragged downward into sleep.  I screamed, not knowing what was happening to me."


"My near-death experience has made me quite sensitive to many more things than my mind understands.  It also helped me to be less serious about myself.  I'm dispensable.  I have discovered I do not value 'things' as I once did.  I befriend people in a different way.  I respect their choices to be the people they want to be.  The same for my own family.  I will guide, but not demand.  As for the "Light" - it was then and remains so, my encounter with the most powerful of all entities.  The giver of life on both sides of the curtain.  After all, I was given a second chance.  I am blessed and cannot ask for more."


  1. Sandra H. Brock of Staunton, Virginia


"I had a stomach stapling in 1980 and, in the process, had to have a deformed spleen removed.  I hemorrhaged on the operating table, and the doctor said that at three times he thought he was going to lose me.  The first day after surgery I had to have transfusions.  During one of the transfusions I started feeling really weird.  I felt like if I shut my eyes I would never open them again.  I called a nurse.  Of course, she said it was all in my head, and left the room.  I remember she just walked out the door and I started being pulled through a tunnel.  It was a terrible experience because all I could see were people from my past, people who were already dead, who had done or said something to me that had hurt me in one way or another.  They were laughing and screaming, until I thought I could not stand it.  I begged and begged that I be allowed to go back.  I could see a light at the end of the tunnel but I never really got close to it.  All of a sudden I was back in my bed, just thankful I had not died."


She’s had other NDE’s, as well.


"My mother told me that when she found she was pregnant with me, she prayed that I would die.  They were just coming out of the depression and they already had a baby and could not afford another.  When I was born, I was born with a harelip.  Mother thought that was her punishment for wanting me dead.  Within several days, and without any surgery, my harelip healed itself, and to this day I do not carry a scar.  She also told me that when I was only a few weeks old, she came to my bassinet and found me not breathing.  I had already turned purple.  She grabbed me, shook me, and blew in my face until I started breathing again.  I don't remember this experience, but I do remember being in a bassinet that had no liner.  I remember studying my hands and what my hands looked like as an infant.  My mother said I couldn't possibly remember this, but I did, and I was right."


  1. Alice Morrison-Mays New Orleans, Louisiana


"From my position near the ceiling, I watched as they began to wrap both my legs from tips of the toes up to my hips, then my arms and hands up to the shoulders.  This was to keep what blood remained for my heart and lungs.  Then they tilted my body so my legs were up in the air and I was standing on my head!


"I was furious about the way they had handled Jeff's birth and now they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off squawking loudly; and here I was looking at that silent, bandaged body lying on a tilt table, head to the floor, legs and feet in the air.  I was venting my anger and frustration from the corner of the ceiling on the right side of my body.  I can remember the anger vividly, fury at the powerless position this whole event put me in, and I was very 'verbal' about it - silently - up there, as my mind raced to express its reaction, worry, and concern.  Their statements 'We're losing her!  We're losing her!'  frightened me and I'd get pissed all over again.


"The scene changed and I was no longer in that room.  I found myself in a place of such beauty and peace.  It was timeless and spaceless.  I was aware of delicate and shifting hues of colors with their accompanying rainbows of 'sound,' though there was no noise in this sound.  It might have felt like wind and bells, were it earthly.  I 'hung' there - floating.  Then I became aware of other loving, caring beings hovering near me.  Their presence was so welcoming and nurturing.  They appeared 'formless' in the way I was accustomed by now to seeing things.  I don't know how to describe them.  I was aware of some bearded male figures in white robes in a semicircle around me.  The atmosphere became blended as though made of translucent clouds.  I watched as these clouds and their delicate shifting colors moved through and around us.


"A dialogue softly started with answers to my unfinished questions almost before I could form them.  They said they were my guides and helpers as well as being God's Messengers.  Even though they were assigned to me as a human and always available to me - they had other purposes, too.  They were in charge of other realms in creation and had the capacity of being in several places simultaneously.  They were also 'in charge' of several different levels of knowledge.  I became aware of an ecstasy and a joy that permeated the whole, unfolding beyond anything that I had experienced in my living twenty-five years, up to that point.  Even having my two previous children, whom I wanted very much, couldn't touch the 'glow' of this special experience.


"Then I was aware of an Immense Presence coming toward me, bathed in white, shimmering light that glowed and at times sparkled like diamonds.  Everything else seen, the colors, beings, faded into the distance as the Light Being permeated everything.  I was being addressed by an overwhelming presence.  Even though I felt unworthy, I was being lifted into that which I could embrace.  The Joy and Ecstasy were intoxicating.  It was 'explained' that I could remain there if I wanted; it was a choice I could make.


"There was much teaching going on, and I was just 'there' silently, quietly.  I felt myself expanding and becoming part of All That Was in Total Freedom Unconditionally.  I became aware again that I needed to make a choice.  Part of me wanted to remain forever, but I finally realized I didn't want to leave a new baby motherless.  I left with sadness and reluctance.


"Almost instantly I felt reentry into my body through the silver cord at the top of my head.  There was something skin to a physical bump.  As soon as I entered, I heard someone near me say, 'Oh, we've got her back.'  I was told I had two pieces of placenta as large as grapefruits removed."


  1. Steven B. Ridenhour of Charlottesville, Virginia


"We smoked another joint and then headed toward the rapids.  Debbie begins laughing, and the next thing I know we're overtaken by laughter.  The giggling stops as we're swept off our feet and dragged downriver.  Debbie cries out, 'Steven I can't swim.  I'm drowning.'  I feel powerless because I can't get to her and I'm yelling, 'Hang on, don't panic,' when I take a tremendous mouthful of water.  Without any warning, time, as I know it, stops.


"The water has a golden glow and I find myself just floating as without gravity, feeling very warm and comfortable.  I'm floating in a vertical position with my arms outstretched and my head laying on my left shoulder.  I feel totally at peace and full of serenity in this timeless space.  Next I go through a past-life review.  It was like looking at a very fast slide show of my past life, and I do mean fast, like seconds.  I don't quite understand the significance of all the events that were shown to me, but I'm sure there is some importance.  When this ended, it was as if I was floating very high up and looking down at a funeral.  Suddenly I realized that I was looking at myself in a casket.  I saw myself dressed in a black tux with a white shirt and a red rose on my left lapel.  Standing around me were my immediate family and significant friends.


"Then, as if some powerful force wrapped around me, I was thrust out of the water, gasping for air.  There was Debbie within arm's reach.  I grabbed her by the back of her hair and I was able to get us both over to the rocks and out of the water.  After lying on the rocks for a while, I glance over at Debbie and it's like looking at a ghost.  As she describes what she went through, it became apparent that we both had the same experience underwater - the golden glow, the serenity, seeing our lives flash before us, floating over a funeral, and seeing ourselves in a casket.  That is the only time we ever talked about it.  I haven't seen or talked with Debbie since."


Passenger Justin Kowalczyk


“my near death experience: December 8th 2006 I got attacked by a pitbull. Tore my upper lip in half and off my face. got rushed to the ER, put under and into emergency surgery to  try and reconnect what they could find and stop the bleeding. While under anesthesia I found myself watching the doctors work on me. my viewpoint seemed to be from the ceiling of the room. No sound. but they seemed frantic. came too and brought up my "dream" to doctors and family. i was told you do not dream under anesthesia. 


fast forward 2 years and while going over the medical records for the lawsuit i stumble upon the fact that they couldnt get the bleeding to stop and couldnt keep my airway clear. for a brief period i had died on the table.  pretty sure this is what I saw in my "dream"”


Her name is Winnie:

Four years ago, I was on the I-10 highway in Arizona, making my daily commute from work. This is also a huge truck route, so traffic got pretty brutal at times. All seemed fine for once, traffic was flowing smoothly and we were all cruising at about 75. Out of nowhere, everyone jumps to the right lanes and comes to a screeching halt. There is an ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) car in the far left lane, seemingly parked in the lane with the worker on his phone. I hit my hazard lights and slam on my brakes and miss the pickup truck in front of me by an inch. I check behind me, and a few people have thrown their cars into the shoulder to avoid hitting the car in front of them. Thats when I see it- I remember it as vividly as if it happened yesterday-I watched my rear view in horror as a red, Volvo semi with a refrigerated trailer is still going full speed. The driver has his head turned, talking to his passenger. They're not slowing down, they don't see me. I see his passenger turn his head and point frantically as they barrel closer and closer. I hear his brakes engage, I hear his tires squeal, but they're still not stopping. I contemplate fleeing my vehicle, but there's no time. Suddenly, I saw a flash of my life play out before me." I didn't get to tell my boyfriend goodbye this morning. When was the last time I called my mother? What am I going to do? There's nowhere to run, I'm going to die, the person in front of me is going to die, and the person in front of them is at the very least going to be really messed up. Oh my God. Fuck. Fuck. This is going to hurt. I'm not ready to go." All of these thoughts occurred in the same 5 seconds. 


I felt my car get hit, and I see the semi on the side of me, scraping down the guard rail. He threw his truck into the shoulder to avoid hitting me head on.. The truck finally stopped about a football field away from me, and I realize I'm alive. Immediately after I realize I'm not only alive but in one piece, I look out my window and see that my car is surrounded by people, frantically trying to get me to unlock the vehicle. I unlock my door, and Immediately after that I blacked out. Was it stress? Trauma? I don't know. But I have first hand accounts from law enforcement and paramedics that I drove my car off the freeway as instructed and sat down to be looked over by paramedics after giving my statement. I have severe pain in my back to this day, but considering what should have happened, I'll take it. I don't believe in angels, divine intervention or even fate. But *something* or someone was looking out for me that day.


Celebrity Near Death Experiences


The Midnight Train Podcast is sponsored by VOUDOUX VODKA.


Ace’s Depot




Find The Midnight Train Podcast:


And wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Subscribe to our official YouTube channel:




October 12, 2020

Season 4 

Ep. 14

Circus freaks/side shows


"When you're born, you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat." 

-- George Carlin

    The “freak show,” or “sideshow,” rose to prominence in 16th century England. For centuries, cultures around the world had interpreted severe physical deformities as bad omens or evidence that evil spirits were present; by the late 1500s, these stigmas had translated into public curiosity.


            Businessmen scouted people with abnormalities, swooped them up, and shuttled them throughout Europe, charging small fees for viewings. One of the earliest recorded “freaks” of this era was Lazarus Colloredo, an “otherwise strapping” Italian whose brother, Joannes, protruded, upside down, from his chest. The conjoined twins “both fascinated and horrified the general public,” and the duo even made an appearance before King Charles I in the early 1640s. Castigated from society, people like Lazarus  capitalized on their unique conditions to make a little cash -- even if it meant being made into a public spectacle. Whether it was a person with dwarfism acting as a jester or clown for an individual monarch, or a person with a unique physical impairment displaying her body for the eyes of a curious and gawking public, freaking—exploiting the perceived peculiarities of your own body for an audience—was a means of support for some disabled people who might otherwise have died or struggled to survive. But until the 19th century, freak shows catered to relatively small crowds and didn’t yield particularly healthy profits for showmen or performers. It was in the mid nineteenth and early 20th centuries that freak shows had become a viable commercial enterprise in England and the U.S. alike. 

America and England both had men who would come into prominence by employing (or exploiting depending on whom you talk too)these types of folks for profit purposes. In England it was a man named Tom Norman. 


Tom Norman was born on 7 May 1860 in Dallington, Sussex and was the eldest of 17 children. His real name was Noakes and his father Thomas was a butcher who resided at the Manor House in Dallington. According to his autobiography he left home at the age of fourteen to seek fame and fortune on the road and before long he had found employment as a butcher’s assistant in London. Tom first became involved in showbusiness a year later when he went into partnership with a showman who had a penny gaff shop in Islington, exhibiting Mlle Electra(not a typo). However, as is often the case with Tom Norman, the facts are difficult to piece together from the legend and the first record we have for a showman called Norman from this time can be traced to the Agricultural Hall in Islington, the venue for The World’s Fair. Some of the showmen on view that day included the famous Tommy Dodd and his wife, "The smallest people in the world;" and a giant boy aged seventeen. Other showmen presenting attractions were Williams's Ghost Show; Chittock and Testo's dog and monkey circus and Mander’s Huge Collection of Wild Beasts. However, both The Era newspaper report and the handbill for the event note the presence of Norman's performing fishes, which reputedly could not only talk but also play the pianoforte; and Norman’s French Artillery Giant Horse. In his autobiography which was incomplete before his death in 1930, Norman states that he was fifteen when he first appeared at the World’s Fair. Therefore, the Norman mentioned could either have been a showman whose name Tom Noakes went on to use, or he was actually 13 years old when he first left home.

By the 1870s the young aspiring showman had been involved in a number of careers including exhibiting Eliza Jenkins, the Skeleton Woman, a popular novelty show at the time, the Balloon Headed Baby and a whole range of freak show attractions as he stated in his autobiography:

“But you could indeed exhibit anything in those days. Yes anything from a needle to an anchor, a flea to an elephant, a bloater you could exhibit as a whale. It was not the show, it was the tale that you told.”

Perhaps one of the more gruesome shows he was involved with, was 'the woman who bit live rat heads off. '

In his autobiography Tom Norman describes the act a the most gruesome he had ever seen:

“Dick Bakers wife, who used to be with me and gave I think now, the most repulsive performance, that I have ever had or seen, during the whole of my long career. it consisted of Mrs Baker, putting her naked hand into a cage, fetch out a live rat and proceed to bite its head off.”

The effect on the audience was such wrote Tom that:

“More than once, have I seen a member of either sex of the audience, fall forward in a faint during this extraordinary performance.”

Tom Norman’s ability to tell the tale was the scene of one of his greatest compliments when in 1882 he was performing at the Royal Agricultural Hall. Unaware that the great showman P. T. Barnum(well get to him don't worry) was in the audience, Tom informed the crowd that none other than the greatest showman on earth had booked the show for its entire run. Upon meeting Tom Norman, Barnum pointed to the large silver Albert chain which he wore and said 'Silver King eh'. Despite being found out, Tom Norman took this as a compliment and from then on he became known as The Silver King.

Throughout the 1880s his fame as a showman grew and by 1883 he had thirteen penny gaff shops throughout London including locations such as Whitechapel, Hammersmith, Croydon and Edgeware Road. He still continued to travel with his shows and Norman’s Grand Panorama was a highlight of the Christmas Fair for the 1883/84 season in Islington. It was at this time that Norman came into contact with Joseph Merrick through a showman called George Hitchcock who proposed that Norman took over the London management of the Elephant Man. This episode in Norman’s life is shrouded in controversy as Sir Frederick Treeves, the surgeon who reputedly rescued Joseph Merrick or John as he calls him, blackened the character of Norman in his autobiography published in 1923. There are differing accounts of the way Merrick was treated by Norman. Treeves maintains that he was treated poorly by Norman and simply exploited. There are others who claim that Norman treated Merrick extremely well and that Merrick was never healthier or happier than with Norman. The Elephant Man was managed by Tom for only a few months and after the London shop was closed by the police, Joseph Merrick was taken back by the consortium of Leicester businessmen and placed in the hands of Sam Roper, a travelling showman.

Tom Norman’s career continued after the Elephant Man and over the next ten year he became involved with managing a troupe of midgets, exhibiting the famous Man in a Trance show at Nottingham Goose Fair, Mary Anne Bevan the World’s Ugliest Woman, John Chambers the Armless Carpenter and Leonine the Lion Faced Lady. In January 1893, the following advertisement appeared in The Era newspaper and seems to imply that Tom was thinking of leaving England for the Worlds’ Fair which was being held in Chicago. The advertisement appeared for the following weeks and although no details are available as to their final outcome they do give us a glimpse into the type of shows Tom Norman was exhibiting at the time.


“Wanted, to Sell, 10ft Living Carriage, Light, One-horse Load, already Fitted for Road, £25, worth £35; also Novelty Booth, good as new, Size, 9ft by18ft, with Novelty and Four New Brass Lamps, with Filler and Oil Drum, by Mellor and Sons, £4; also Piano Organ, nearly New, scarcely soiled, TenTunes, by Capra, suit Waxworks or any Shop Exhibition, £7, worth £18; also Two Fat Paintings, Best on the Road, by Leach, Size 9ft by 10ft, ditto One, same size of Skeleton Girl, all good as new; also Two others of Fats, size 6ft by Thornhill, with large Case to carry the lot, £5, cost £20; also 9ft Square Booth for Performing Fleas, with Two Grand Oil Paintings for same, price £1; also Aerial Suspension for Child 15s; also the Largest Silver Albert in England, made expressly for me, £3, cost £6. The whole of the above to be sold together or separate. Can be seen any time. Reason, I am leaving for Chicago. Apply any Morning before 12.0 to TOM NORMAN, Silver King, Pearce's Temperance Hotel, Elephant and Castle, SE”.

In 1896 Tom met and married Amy Rayner at the Royal Agricultural Hall and their marriage lasted until his death in 1930. At that time Tom was travelling his famous Midget show and the Ghost show he had bought from John Parker. Their first son Tom was born in 1899 and was soon followed by Hilda, Ralph, Jimmy, Nelly, Arthur, Amy, Jack, Daisy and George.

Soon after the birth of his first son, Tom became an auctioneer and the first show he sold belonged to Fred and George Ginnett. His career as an auctioneer prospered and some of the most famous shows he sold included Lord George Sanger and Frank Bostock's.

He advertised in both The Era and The Showman newspapers as the recognised Showman’s Auctioneer and Valuer throughout 1901 and early clients in 1902 included W. T. Kirkland who had concessions at Southport, Morecambe and New Brighton. He instituted the annual Showman and Travellers’ Auction Sales in London, Manchester and Liverpool from 1903 onwards and negotiated sales for showman such as Walter Payne, Edwin Lawrence and many others. His most famous sale to date place in 1905 when he organised the disposal of Lord George Sanger’s Zoo at Margate. This was followed by what Tom Norman described as the crowning point in my life as regards the auctioneering business, when he was called upon by Sanger to auction the whole of his travelling circus effects. The following tribute published in 1901 demonstrates the esteem in which he was held by the fairground fraternity:

'Mr Norman believes in catering for modern tastes - brilliancy; brightness, cleanliness and order are Tom’s strong points'

Tom Norman continued to travel with his shows and maintained his penny gaff shops in London while basing the auctioneering side of the business at his family home the Manor House Dallington. Although Tom did not reveal in his autobiography the reasons for changing his name, he obviously maintained links with his place of birth in order to base this part of his business activities there.

In the period leading up the First World War, Tom was now the father of ten children, nine surviving and his sons Tom, Ralph, Jimmy, Arthur and George had inherited their father’s showmanship. Ralph Van became known as Hal Denver and travelled throughout Europe and America as a wild west performer, George and Arthur found fame as clowns in many of the world’s greatest circuses and Tom and Jim Norman remained on the fairground.

By 1915 the family were firmly based in Croydon and Tom was starting to dispose of some of his business concerns when his eldest son Tom Jnr enlisted. The shops for sale included Tom Norman's New Exhibition with waxworks and novelty museum and the Croydon Central Auction Rooms. Tom slowly retired from the fairground business and although he maintained his auctioneering concerns, he mainly concentrated on buying and selling caravans and dealing in horses for circuses and pantomimes. After the end of the first World War, Tom became restless again and appeared at the Olympia Circus in 1919 with Phoebe the Strange Girl and exhibited at Birmingham and Dreamland, Margate in 1921. Tom also returned to the venue where he had first started, The Royal Agricultural Hall and worked there throughout the 1920s although he was living in semi-retirement at the family base in Beddington Lane, Croydon.

Tom Norman left behind a comfortable professional birthright to become one of the leading travelling showmen of his day. The benevolence he showed to his fellow showmen, his association with the newly formed Van Dwelling’s Association and his role in the United Kingdom Temperance Association demonstrate the injustice done to his reputation by inaccurate accounts of The Elephant Man. He died in Croydon on 24 August 1930, while according to his son George Van Norman, making plans to travel to a large auction show around the country.

The following tribute was published in the World’s Fair.

'There are very few showmen who have not met the famous showman’s auctioneer, “The Silver King”, He has been a conspicuous and charismatic figure in our business for the past half a century and has conducted more showman’ sales than any other auctioneer in the country... During his fifty years with us, he has endeared himself to all section from the humblest to the highest. He was a charming personality with a commanding appearance that left a lifetime impression upon anyone that he met. All his life he has been a showman and as such he died.'

So that's England's great showman, the man who really helped bring freak shows to prominence ther. But as i mentioned earlier, the U.S. had one as well. He was brought up earlier and I'm sure you all know who it is.. Good old Phineas Taylor Barnum, better known as P.T. Now, now i'm sure most of you know at least a little about him, or have at some point as a kid been to a circus with his name somewhere in the title. Some of you younger listeners may have missed out on the joys of the circus. Were gonna take a loom at his life and how he rose to prominence.


Barnum was born in Bethel, Connecticut, the son of innkeeper, tailor, and store-keeper Philo Barnum (1778–1826) and his second wife Irene Taylor. His maternal grandfather Phineas Taylor was a Whig, legislator, landowner, justice of the peace, and lottery schemer who had a great influence on him.Barnum was 15 years old when his father died, and the support of his mother and his five sisters and brothers fell largely upon his shoulders. After holding a variety of jobs, he became publisher of a Danbury, Connecticut, weekly newspaper, Herald of Freedom. Arrested three times for libel, he enjoyed his first taste of notoriety.

In 1829, at age 19, Barnum married a 21-year-old Bethel woman, Charity Hallett, who was to bear him four daughters. In 1834 he moved to New York City, where he found his vocation as a showman. He began his career as a showman in 1835 when he was 25 with the purchase and exhibition of a blind and almost completely paralyzed slave woman named Joice Heth, whom an acquaintance was trumpeting around Philadelphia as George Washington's former nurse and 161 years old. Slavery was already outlawed in New York, but he exploited a loophole which allowed him to lease her for a year for $1,000, borrowing $500 to complete the sale. Heth died in February 1836, at no more than 80 years old. Barnum had worked her for 10 to 12 hours a day, and he hosted a live autopsy of her body in a New York saloon where spectators paid 50 cents to see the dead woman cut up, as he revealed that she was likely half her purported age.

 It was very common for Barnum's acts to be schemes and not altogether true. Barnum was fully aware of the improper ethics behind his business as he said, 

"I don't believe in duping the public, but I believe in first attracting and then pleasing them." 

During the 1840s Barnum began his museum, which had a constantly rotating acts schedule, which included The Fat Lady, midgets, giants, and other people deemed to be freaks. The museum drew in about 400,000 visitors a year.


 During the 1840s Barnum began his museum, which had a constantly rotating acts schedule, which included The Fat Lady, midgets, giants, and other people deemed to be freaks. The museum drew in about 400,000 visitors a year.[14]

P.T. Barnum's American Museum was one of the most popular museums in New York City to exhibit freaks. In 1841 Barnum purchased The American Museum, which made freaks the major attraction, following mainstream America in the mid-19th century. Barnum was known to advertise aggressively and make up outlandish stories about his exhibits. The façade of the museum was decorated with bright banners showcasing his attractions and included a band that performed outside. Barnum's American Museum also offered multiple attractions that not only entertained but tried to educate and uplift its working-class visitors. Barnum offered one ticket that guaranteed admission to his lectures, theatrical performances, an animal menagerie, and a glimpse at curiosities both living and dead.

One of Barnum's exhibits centered around Charles Sherwood Stratton, the dwarf billed as "General Tom Thumb" who was then 4 years of age but was stated to be 11. Charles had stopped growing after the first 6 months of his life, at which point he was 25 inches (64 cm) tall and weighed 15 pounds (6.8 kg). With heavy coaching and natural talent, the boy was taught to imitate people from Hercules to Napoleon. By 5, he was drinking wine, and by 7 smoking cigars for the public's amusement. During 1844–45, Barnum toured with Tom Thumb in Europe and met Queen Victoria, who was amused and saddened by the little man, and the event was a publicity coup. Barnum paid Stratton handsomely - about $150.00 a week. When Stratton retired, he lived in the most esteemed neighborhood of New York, he owned a yacht, and dressed in the nicest clothing he could buy.

In 1860, The American Museum had listed and archived thirteen human curiosities in the museum, including an albino family, The Living Aztecs, three dwarfs, a black mother with two albino children, The Swiss Bearded Lady, The Highland Fat Boys, and What Is It? (Henry Johnson, a mentally disabled black man). Barnum introduced the "man-monkey" William Henry Johnson, a microcephalic black dwarf who spoke a mysterious language created by Barnum and was known as Zip the Pinhead . In 1862, he discovered the giantess Anna Swan and Commodore Nutt, a new Tom Thumb, with whom Barnum visited President Abraham Lincoln at the White House. During the Civil War, Barnum's museum drew large audiences seeking diversion from the conflict.

Barnum's most popular and highest grossing act was the Tattooed Man, George Contentenus. He claimed to be a Greek-Albanian prince raised in a Turkish harem. He had 338 tattoos covering his body. Each one was ornate and told a story. His story was that he was on a military expedition but was captured by native people, who gave him the choice of either being chopped up into little pieces or receive full body tattoos. This process supposedly took three months and Contentenus was the only hostage who survived. He produced a 23-page book, which detailed every aspect of his experience and drew a large crowd. When Contentenus partnered with Barnum, he began to earn more than $1,000 a week($31,000 in 2020). His wealth became so staggering that the New York Times wrote, "He wears very handsome diamond rings and other jewelry, valued altogether at about $3,000 [roughly $93,000 in 2020 dollars] and usually goes armed to protect himself from persons who might attempt to rob him." Though Contentenus was very fortunate, other freaks were not. Upon his death in 1891, he donated about half of his life earnings to other freaks who Barnum retired in 1865 when his museum burnt to the ground. Though Barnum was and still is criticized for exploitation, he paid the performers fairly handsome sums of money. Some of the acts made the equivalent of what some sports stars make today. Between 1842, when he took over the American Museum, and 1868, when he gave it up after fires twice had all but destroyed it, Barnum’s gaudy showmanship enticed 82 million visitors—among them Henry and William James, Charles Dickens, and Edward VII, then prince of Wales—into his halls and to his other enterprises. 


Barnum did not enter the circus business until he was 60 years old. He established "P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome" in Delavan, Wisconsin, in 1870 with William Cameron Coup; it was a traveling circus, menagerie, and museum of "freaks". It went through various names: "P. T. Barnum's Travelling World's Fair, Great Roman Hippodrome and Greatest Show on Earth", and "P. T. Barnum's Greatest Show on Earth, And The Great London Circus, Sanger's Royal British Menagerie and The Grand International Allied Shows United" after an 1881 merger with James Bailey and James L. Hutchinson, soon shortened to "Barnum & Bailey's". This entertainment phenomenon was the first circus to display three rings.[25] The show's first primary attraction was Jumbo, an African elephant that Barnum purchased in 1882 from the London Zoo. The Barnum and Bailey Circus still contained acts similar to his Traveling Menagerie, including acrobats, freak shows, and General Tom Thumb. Barnum persisted in growing the circus in spite of more fires, train disasters, and other setbacks, and he was aided by circus professionals who ran the daily operations. He and Bailey split up in 1885, but they came back together in 1888 with the "Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show On Earth", later "Barnum & Bailey Circus" which toured the world.

Barnum was one of the first circus owners to move his circus by train, on the suggestion of Bailey and other business partners, and probably the first to own his own train. Given the lack of paved highways in America at that time, this turned out to be a shrewd decision that vastly expanded Barnum's geographical reach. In this new industry, Barnum leaned more on the advice of his partners, most of whom were young enough to be his sons.

Barnum became known as the "Shakespeare of Advertising" due to his innovative and impressive ideas.


    Barnum went on to write his autobiography and do something interesting, more interested in publicity than profits, he made his biography public domain. This meant that anyone who wanted to publish his biography could do so without having to secure rights for it. In his 81st year, Barnum fell gravely ill. At his request, a New York newspaper published his obituary in advance so that he might enjoy it. Two weeks later, after inquiring about the box office receipts of the circus, Barnum died in his Connecticut mansion. The Times of London echoed the world press in its final tribute: “He created the métier of showman on a grandiose scale.…He early realized that essential feature of a modern democracy, its readiness to be led to what will amuse and instruct it.…His name is a proverb already, and a proverb it will continue

Those are the stories, for the most part of two of the major players in the freakshow game. There were more, and maybe we will revisit the rest of the stories and the other folks involved at a later date but for now we are going to move on to what you all want…some of the coolest  freaks there were!!!


We mentioned this fellow a bit earlier and it was time to bring him back. Born in 1617 in Genoa, Italy, Colloredo would exhibit himself all across Europe during his lifetime. Colloredo is among the earliest—and most extraordinary—recorded cases of parasitic twins. We found this description of Lazarus by Danish anatomist Thomas Bartholinus, as detailed in the 19th-century book, Kirby’s Wonderful and Eccentric Museum:


“I saw, saith Bartholinus, Lazarus Colloredo, the Genoese, first at Copenhagen, after at Basil, when he was twenty-eight years of age, but in both places with amazement. This Lazarus had a little brother growing out at his breast, who was in that posture born with him. If I mistake not, the bone, called xyphoideus, in both of them grew together; his left foot along hung downwards; he had two arms but only three fingers upon each hand: some appearance there was of the secret parts: he moved his hands ears and lips, and had a little beating in the breast. This little brother voids no excrements but by the mouth, nose, and ears, and is nourished by that which the greater takes: he has distinct animal and vital parts from the greater, since he sleeps, sweats, and moves when the other wakes, rests and sweats not. Both received their names at the font; the greater that of Lazarus, and the other that of Johannes Baptista. The natural bowels, as the liver, spleen, &c. are the same in both. Johannes Baptista hath his eyes for the most


part shut: his breath small, so that holding a feather at his mouth it scarcely moves, but holding the hand there we find a small and warm breath. His mouth is usually open, and wet with spittle; his head is bigger than that of Lazarus, but deformed; his hair hanging down while his face is in an upright posture. Both have beards; that of Baptista is neglected, but that of Lazarus very neat. Lazarus is of a just stature, a decent body, courteous deportment, and gallantly attired: he covers the body of his brother with his cloak, nor would you think a monster lay within at your first discourse with him. He seemed always of a constant mind, unless that now and then he was solicitous as to his end, for he feared the death of his brother, presaging that when it came to pass, he should also expire with the stench and putrefaction of his body; and therefore he took greater care of his brother than himself.”

Well then! That sounds like a fucking insane thing to see!!


The walking manifestation of one of the seven deadly sins prowled the cobbled streets of 18th-century Paris, seeking only to indulge his endless hunger. Earlier in life, his dietary needs started out robustly, but were otherwise innocuous. However, things would soon take a sinister turn so far as this overzealous diner was concerned. According to contemporary accounts and existent medical records, his quenchless appetite continued growing to the point that his legendarily gluttonous gorging caused this ravenous Frenchman to ingest live animals and maraud morgues for sustenance. He was once even suspected of kidnapping and devouring a toddler.

The crack team at was able to speak with a doctor who specializes in science-based nutrition in search of a possible diagnosis, but first, let’s chew the fat on the life of this legendary cannibal and his strange circumstances of existence. Be warned, this is not for the weak of heart—but if you think you can stomach it, then strap in!



With a large, lip-less mouth stretched wide beyond human regularity and filled with stained teeth, he ate corks, stones, entire baskets of apples—one at a time in quick succession—and live animals (his favorite was snake) for the morbid amusement of repulsed onlookers that were challenged to satiate his seemingly interminable appetite.

Like most modern competitive binge-eaters, Tarrare was diminutive in stature, weighing no more than one hundred pounds—prior to eating, at least. Despite all of his daily intake, he never seemed to keep any of the weight on. When empty, his stomach was loosely distended to the point that he could wrap it around his waist as if it were a belt made of his own, still-attached flesh. When full, it was inflated like a balloon—not unlike a pregnant woman in her final trimester. His hair was fair and soft, while his cheeks, when not engaged at capacity—allegedly able to hold so much as a dozen eggs—were wrinkled and hung slack to create premature jowls.

Prior to life as a successful street performer, the individual is known only by his stage name, Tarrare, lived in destitution as part of a traveling caravan of criminal misfits. Born in the rural countryside surrounding the epicenter of the booming silk-weaving trade in Lyon, France in approximately 1772, his rapacious appetite was readily apparent from an early age. As the legend goes, a young Tarrare was capable of eating his own bodyweight in cow meat within a 24-hour period. Sadly, this boundless craving forced him out of his family’s home as a teenager, as they could no longer afford to feed him.

After several years of touring the country as a vagabond begging for food, for a time Tarrare became the opener for a snake-oil peddling mountebank before taking off to Paris to perform as a solo act. With success came risk. Tarrare once collapsed mid-performance with what was later discovered to be an intestinal obstruction, requiring his audience to carry him to the nearby Hôtel-Dieu hospital. After being treated with laxatives, a grateful Tarrare offered to demonstrate his talents by eating the surgeon’s pocket watch. The surgeon agreed, but only under the condition that he be allowed to cut Tarrare open to retrieve it. Wisely, Tarrare declined.

It was during the French War of the First Coalition when respected military surgeon Dr. Pierre-François Percy first made the acquaintance of the inexplicable Tarrare, now a soldier for the French Revolutionary Army. Barely twenty years old, this peculiar patient proved to be quite extraordinary. Unable to subsist off of military rations alone, Tarrare began doing odd jobs around the base for other soldiers in exchange for their rations and, when that proved to be insufficient, foraged for food scraps in dunghills. Despite all of his scrounging, Tarrare succumbed to exhaustion and was admitted to a military hospital under the care of Dr. Percy.

There, even being granted quadruple rations failed to satiate his hunger. Tarrare began to eat out of the garbage, steal the food of other patients, and even chow down on the hospital’s bandage supply. Psychological testing found Tarrare to be apathetic, but otherwise sane.

Percy’s report described Tarrare as having bloodshot eyes and constantly being overheated and sweating, with a body odor so rancid that he could be smelled from twenty feet away—and that’s by 18th-century French military surgeon standards. Woof. The smell only got worse after eating. Percy described it as being so bad he literally had visible stink lines.

After eating, Tarrare would succumb to the itis and pass out. Percy observed this after preparing a meal made for fifteen to test Tarrare’s limits, which he predictably porked down. Percy continued this experiment by feeding Tarrare live animals: a cat—which he drank the blood of and after consuming, like an owl, he only regurgitated its fur—lizards, snakes, puppies, and an entire eel.

Months of experimentation passed before the military discovered a way to put Tarrare’s unique ability to use: Tarrare was commissioned as a spy for the French Army of the Rhine. His first mission was to secretly courier a document across enemy lines in a place that it could not easily be detected if caught: his digestive tract. After being paid with a wheelbarrow full of thirty pounds of raw bull viscera—which he ate immediately upon presentation directly in front of what we can only imagine to be the incredibly revolted generals and other commanding officers—Tarrare swallowed a wooden box containing a document that could pass through his system completely in-tact and be delivered to a high-ranking prisoner of war in Prussia.


As one might expect, an individual who smells like a foot and compulsively eats from the garbage would likely attract attention—not exactly the ideal, hallmark makings of a spy.

Compound this with the fact that Tarrare did not speak any German and he was quickly caught, beaten, imprisoned, and forced to undergo the psychological torment of a mock execution before being returned to France.

Again under the care of Dr. Percy, the trauma Tarrare endured left him incapable of continuing his military service and desperate to find a cure for his condition. Laudanum opiates, wine vinegar, tobacco pills, and a diet of soft-boiled eggs were all employed, but Tarrare was still forced to walk the streets fighting stray dogs for discarded slaughterhouse cuisine, drink the blood of patients who were being treated with bloodletting, and was even caught consuming cadavers from the hospital morgue multiple times. Eventually, a toddler went missing from the hospital and Tarrare, the suspected culprit, was chased from the premises before disappearing into the city.

Dr. Percy is contacted by a physician of Versailles hospital at the behest of a patient on their deathbed. Sure enough, it was Tarrare, now brought to death’s door by what he professed to be a golden fork he had swallowed two years previously and was now lodged inside of him. It had been four years since Percy had last seen Tarrare, who hoped he could save his life by removing the fork. Unfortunately for Tarrare, it was not a fork that was killing him, but end-stage tuberculosis. Within a month, he passed.

A curious colleague intended to inspect Tarrare’s corpse. However, fellow surgeons refused to partake and it quickly became a race against the clock as the body began to rot rapidly. Findings from the autopsy revealed that Tarrare possessed a shockingly-wide esophagus which allowed spectators to look directly from his open mouth into his stomach, which was unfathomably large and lined with ulcers. His body was full of pus, his liver and gallbladder abnormally large, and the fork was never recovered.


So, what was the cause of Tarrare’s insatiable hunger? In short, we don’t know for sure. When contemporary medical procedures of the time included drinking raw mercury to clear out head demons (probably), should it come as a surprise that Tarrare received no suitable diagnosis or treatment in his own lifetime?

However, some interesting theories have been suggested over the years. was able to speak to Dr. Don Moore, a chiropractor certified in science-based nutrition and owner and operator of Synergy Pro Wellness, to get his take on things.

Now, granted, there is a possibility that Dr. Percy’s personal documentation in the years following Tarrare’s death were exaggerated or falsified, but they were considered credible enough at the time of their publication to be featured in reputable medical texts such as The Study of Medicine, Popular Physiology, and London Medical and Physical Journal. Plus, Dr. Percy is considered the father of military surgeons, was Chief Surgeon to the French Army, a university professor, inventor of important battlefield medical implements, and is considered an all-around highly reputable guy. So, given we accept the above tale as an accurate representation of Tarrare’s symptoms, what does Dr. Moore have to say about it?

“It can be broken down by category: He didn’t suffer from psychosis, so he was completely aware and cognitive. But that doesn’t rule out hyperactivity of hormones and dysfunction of components of the brain. His sensor that would let him know he was full was damaged. If he underwent a brain study, he would have probably been identified as having had an enlarged hypothalamus.”


The hypothalamus regulates the body’s temperature and is responsible for causing the sensation of hunger. Given Tarrare was constantly overheated and in dire search of food, it’s a perfect fit. Dr. Moore also suspects a possible case of pica, which causes the eating of non-edible objects.

As for why Tarrare never weighed more than one hundred pounds, Dr. Moore adroitly theorizes, based on his habitually eating raw meat: “He most likely had a parasite as well. The fact that he was of normal size means something else is being nourished, and the fact that he was constantly hungry leans towards him feeding a secondary organism. A parasite like a hookworm or roundworm, perhaps.”




This next one...i had to put in for obvious reasons! As far as freak shows go, Fanny Mills was one of the most unusual performers to ever step foot inside the sideshow tent. Known as the “Ohio BigFoot Girl,” Fanny seemed normal in every respect…except for her massive feet. Fanny was born in Sussex, England in 1860, and then immigrated with her family to Sandusky, Ohio. The condition that brought her notoriety was Milroy Disease, a rare disorder that causes lymphedema, in which the lower legs and feet swell with lymph fluid. Neither of Fanny’s sisters were born with the disease.

Fanny was a petite woman who only weighed 115 pounds. Her feet, however, were 19 inches long and 7 inches wide. She wore a size 30 shoe made of three goatskins.

Fanny started touring the country in 1885 as “that girl from Ohio” with the “biggest feet on Earth.” She traveled with a nurse named Mary Brown, who helped her get around. Her promoters advertised her to unwed men as “a boon for poor bachelors,” offering $5,000 and a well-stocked farm to any respectable man who would marry her.

“Don’t permit two big feet to stand between you and wedlock tinged with fortune,” the ad read.


Fanny eventually married William Brown, Mary’s brother, in 1886.

She retired from show business in 1891 because of an illness, and died later that year


This guy is another famous guy. But you may not know his whole, incredibly crazy story! He’s the mutha fuckin lobster boy!!! The Stiles family was suffering from a peculiar physical condition known as Ectrodactyly, which is a rare congenital deformity that makes the hand look like lobster claws as the middle fingers are either missing or seemingly fused to the thumb or pinky finger.

The family has been afflicted for over a century with ectrodactyly, a condition commonly known as the Lobster claw. It is an uncommon inherent distortion of the hand where the center digit is missing and the hand is parted where the metacarpal of the finger ought to be.

This split regularly gives the hands the presence of lobster hooks in spite of the fact that cases run in seriousness. Frequently this condition happens in both the hands and the feet and, while it is an acquired condition, it can skirt an age. While the term ectrodactyly sounds medicinally clean when contrasted with ‘Lobster Claw Syndrome’.

While many have viewed Ectrodactyly as a handicap, for the Stiles family it came with an opportunity. The physical condition stayed within the family and any newcomer to the family came out with unusual hands and feet.

But one member from the family, Grady stiles Jr., would give the Stiles’ family a different reputation when he became a serial abuser and murderer.

The home of Gardy Stiles, or popularly known as the lobster boy was an unpleasant place to be. During the carnival season in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Grady was one of the many sideshow performers who people came to gawk at some time in wonder and sometimes out of rudeness.

Grady never concerned himself too much with the opinions of onlookers, he was only there to put on a show, his audience was impressed or not. Grady was born with a severe deformity that gave him the name, The Lobster Boy.


Lobster Boy was born in Pittsburgh in 1937, at that point his father was already part of the “freak show” circuit, adding his kids with the peculiar physical condition to the act.

Because of the deformity Grady couldn’t walk and was confined to a wheelchair, his legs were almost flipper-like and unable to bear weight this resulted in him using his upper body to maneuver around usually in a wheelchair.

All of the locomotion provided by his arms turned Grady into a rather strong man despite his downfalls but he didn’t only utilize his to make his life easier for himself but also to make other’s life harder.

For most of his life, Gary primarily used a wheelchair — but also learned to use his power to use his upper body to pull himself across the floor with impressive strength.

As Grady grew up he would become immensely strong, something which will cost his family later in life.

At age 19 Mary ran off to join the carnival, escaping her old life, oddly enough she felt she belonged best there. Despite the fact that she was surrounded by people with shocking abilities and deformities but for her this was normal.

Mary Theresa wasn’t there for the same reasons the performers were but the carnival always needed staff to keep the shows running. It was here that she met Grady Stiles.

Mary Theresa didn’t see the monster in Grady as others had, she quickly fell in love with Grady and the two were married within no time. Together they had two children and, like his father before him, introduced the children with ectrodactyly to the family business.

Grady added his children into his sideshow with him traveling as an act known as the Lobster Family, of the many issues that were in the family, money wasn’t one of them. The family would make $50,000-$80,000 per season and Grady was considered the major star of the show.

There were no gimmicks with the lobster family no tricks or illusions, What the crowd saw is what the crowd got.

Once the winter set in the show’s closed down and many of their performers including the Stiles family resided in Florida until the new season came around.

Despite the pleasant weather and more free time, Grady still didn’t hesitate to inflict physical and emotional pain on his family.

If Many only would have known when she was younger what she knew after marrying Grady perhaps it would have made a difference.

Mary recollected that Grady was the best anybody could be, a genuinely honorable man however as soon he poured the liquor in his body, something in his brain changed and he would abandon a nobleman to a harsh spouse and father. He turned into a much more alarming man, a genuine beast, more noteworthy than the one others considered him to be. He was a real nightmare come to life.

Marry was impacted in ways that she would never forget. She remembered that her husband was a great guy when he woke up in the morning by 8:00 am and started drinking by 10 and would be miserable for the rest of the day.

In 1973, Grady-Mary’s marriage hit its first end when Mary decided that she couldn’t take the abuse any longer after Grday launched himself at her, took her to the floor, ripped her pantyhose, reached his clawed hand and ripped out the intrauterine device, a device used to prevent pregnancy, and used her hands to choke her – something they were seemingly designed to do well.

Mary was so disgusted, horrified, and emotionally wounded that she wisely left him.

The worst was yet to come after Mary was gone, Grady started drinking even more and when her teenage daughter, Donna fell in love with a young man that he didn’t approve of, he didn’t take the decision very well.

Donna and Jack Lane were in loved and wanted to marry but Grady forbade the marriage threatening to kill Jack numerous times. Donna was unhappy with her drunk and abusive father and wanted an escape.

Donna told Grady that if he didn’t approve the underage marriage, she would live with Jack anyway. This further enraged Grady who prided himself in the way he dominated his family and controlled them.

Grady was home when Jack came home to see him on the night before Jack and Donna were to be married, thinking that maybe Grady has changed his mind and is now happy with our marriage.

Instead of agreeing, Stiles picked up his shotgun and murdered his daughter’s fiance in cold blood. HE sat there while his daughter came and said ‘I told you I would kill him.’

Grady went to trial where the defense attempted to get the jury to pity Grady and his condition. The defense played heavily into the fact that Grady had an unfortunate life driven to drinking and violence by the incessant struggles he faced.

Grady even managed to shed some tears in the courtroom, his daughter Donna took the stand and told him that “she would see him at his grave.”

The jury took three hours in deciding that Grady was guilty of third-degree-murder, Grady received a sentence of 15 years but not in prison but 15 years of probation.

The state believed that their prison system even in their handicap accessible facilities weren’t equipped to handle the specific need for Grady Stiles: no prison could deal with his handicap and to restrict him to jail would be merciless and irregular discipline. He additionally, at this point, had procured liver cirrhosis from drinking and had emphysema from long stretches of cigarette smoking.

So Grady got to serve his sentence from home where he continued to drink heavily and beat his children.

For reasons that no one — either in the Stiles family or outside of it — has been able to understand, his first wife agreed to remarry him in 1989.

Mary who left Grady earlier came back in his life again in 1989 and surprisingly enough forgave the monster for all his wrongdoings.

As earlier Grady was decent for a while but after some time the monster in him came back to haunt the lives of Mary and her children. The violence surged back to the surface as did copious amounts of sexual assault.

A couple of years after she remarried Stiles, she paid her 17-year-old neighbor, Chris Wyant, $1,500 to murder him. Mary Teresa’s child from another marriage, Glenn, helped her imagine the thought and complete the arrangement.

One night, Wyant took a .32 Colt Automatic he had a companion buy for him. He went into Stiles’ trailer, Grady was watching television in his underwear, Wyant put 2 round in the back of his head at the point-clear range, killing him instantly.

Freedom But with A Cost

Police arrested Mary, her son Harry and the killer Wyant. The jury convicted Wyant of second-degree murder and sentenced him to 27 years in prison.

Not one of them denied that they had intended to kill Grady Stiles. During the trial, his wife spoke at length of his abusive history. “My husband was going to kill my family,” she told the court, “I believe that from the bottom of my heart.”

Unfortunately for Mary’s child Glenn, self-defense isn’t applicable when hiring a hitman and Glenn was convicted of first-degree murder and was given life-sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

At least one of their children, Cathy, testified against him as well.

Mary was also charged with first-degree murder and her conviction was reduced to manslaughter and she was sentenced to 12 years behind bars.

She unsuccessfully appealed her conviction and began to serve her sentence in February of 1997. She had tried to get Glenn to take a plea bargain but he refused. The court sentenced him to life in prison.

Just as a significant portion of his living family was being tried for his murder, Grady Stiles’ body was put to rest. Or unrest, as it were: Lobster Boy was so disliked, not just in his family but within the community, that the funeral home could not find anyone willing to be pallbearers.

That's a story that most people don't know about the Lobster Boy!!


Most sources indicate that Ella Harper was born in Hendersonville, Tennessee around 1870 – although there are some conflicting reports. It has also been revealed that Ella had a twin brother, who died quite early. What is not argued, however, is the fact that Ella was born with an unusual orthopedic condition resulting in knees that bent backwards.  The nature of this unusual affliction is exceedingly rare and relatively unknown, however most modern medical types would classify her condition and a very advanced form of congenital genu recurvatum – also known as ‘back knee deformity’. Her unusually bent knees, coupled with her preference of walking on all fours resulted in her moniker of ‘The Camel Girl’.

In 1886, Ella was the star of W. H. Harris’s Nickel Plate Circus, often appearing accompanied by a camel when presented to audiences and she was a feature in the newspapers of every town the circus visited. Those newspapers touted Ella as ‘the most wonderful freak of nature since the creation of the world’ and that her ‘counterpart never did exist’.

The back of Ella’s 1886 pitch card is far more modest in its information:

 I am called the camel girl because my knees turn backward. I can walk best on my hands and feet as you see me in the picture. I have traveled considerably in the show business for the past four years and now, this is 1886 and I intend to quit the show business and go to school and fit myself for another occupation. 

It appears that Ella did indeed move on to other ventures, and her $200 a week salary likely opened many doors for her. For quite some time no further information was available on Ella following 1886, but recently a genealogist managed to not only trace Ella’s family tree, but also provide some information regarding her life after sideshow.

On 28 June 1905 Ella Harper married a man named Robert L. Savely. Savely was a school teacher and later a bookkeeper for a photo supplies company.  A 1910 Census shows Ella and her husband living in Nashville, Tennessee with Ella’s mother and it also revealed that Ella and her husband had adopted a 3 month old child, but that the child passed away only 18 days later.

We also now know that Ella died of colon cancer on 19 December 1921 in Nashville, Tennessee and that she was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Nashville. A simple gravestone marks her plot, but she is surrounded by family.


Some human marvels are made, not born. Often their manufacture is accidental and painful, such is the case of Leonard Trask. Born on June 30, 1805 in Hartford, Maine Trask suffered a major neck injury in his 20’s when he was thrown from his horse. The story was that a pig ran under the hooves of his horse and, after being thrown from the back of his steed, Trask spent several days crawling back home. Despite the serious injury, Trask continued to work as a farm hand until his spine began to bow.

Soon, Trask’s chin was pressed into his chest permanently, and subsequent injuries only exasperated his misery. In 1840 he took a nasty fall and in 1853 he was thrown from his wagon and broke 4 ribs and his collarbone. On May 24, 1858 Trask was involved in a high-speed coach accident, in which he and several passengers where thrown to the ground. In the accident, Trask struck his head and opened ‘a gash in his head five inches long’. The injury was severe, and he was not expected to survive, but he did and was even more disabled and miserable as a result of the injury.

Through much of his adult life, his wife took care of him, and despite his physical limitations he fathered seven children with her. Unable to work, Trask was eventually able to spin his status as a medical curiosity into small career as a human oddity attraction to the general public. As “The Wonderful Invalid”, Trask was able to capture a small measure of fame. His 1860 self-published story A Brief Historical Sketch of the Life and Sufferings of Leonard Trask, the Wonderful Invalid, which included accounts of his activities like ‘Mr. Trask at the Circus’ and ‘Mr.Trask Going to Drink’ that were both amusing and sad.

At the time of his death on April 13, 1861 Trask’s condition was still not officially diagnosed despite seeing more than 22 doctors during his lifetime. Today Trask would be diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis, a condition that affect less than 0.2% of the general population


For all intents and purposes, Josephine Myrtle Corbin was a normal girl. Her birth was not marked by anything out of the ordinary, and her mother claimed to have had a typical labor and delivery, apart from the baby being momentarily in the breech position.

The doctors who examined the baby after birth reported her to be strong and healthy, adding that she was growing at a good rate. A year later she was found to be nursing “healthily” and “thriving well.”

Overall, Myrtle Corbin was a perfectly healthy, active, and thriving baby girl. All in spite of having four legs.

Perfectly Ordinary (Almost)

After being born with four legs, two normal sized ones on either side of a pair of diminutive ones, the doctor who delivered Myrtle Corbin felt it necessary to point out the factors they felt could have resulted in her deformity. First, the baby’s parents, the doctors said, were about 10 years apart in age. William H. Corbin was 25, and his wife Nancy was 34.


Second, the doctors noted that the couple bore a striking resemblance to each other. Both of them were redheads, with blue eyes and very fair complexions. They actually looked so similar that the doctors felt it necessary to explicitly point out that the two were not “blood kin” in their medical reports.

Despite the two factors the doctors listed, it seemed that the young girl was simply an oddity – her parents had had seven other children, all of whom were perfectly ordinary.

Later, it would be determined that she was born with dipygus and her condition was likely the result of her body’s axis splitting as it developed. As a result, she was born with two pelvises side by side.

With each pelvis, she had two sets of legs, one normal sized, and one small. The two small legs were side by side, flanked on either side by two normal legs, though one with a clubbed foot.

According to medical journals written by the physicians that studied Myrtle Corbin throughout her life, she was able to move her smaller inner legs, though they weren’t strong enough for her to be able to walk on. Which, of course, didn’t really matter, as they were not long enough to touch the ground.

In 1881 at age 13, Myrtle Corbin joined the sideshow circuit under the moniker “The Four-Legged Girl From Texas.” After showing her to curious neighbors and charging them a dime each, her father realized her potential for publicity and for cash. He had promotional pamphlets made up and began placing ads in newspapers for people to come see her.

The promotional pamphlets described her as a girl with “as gentle of disposition as the summer sunshine and as happy as the day is long.” And, indeed, that appeared to be true.

Throughout her time as a sideshow attraction, she became wildly popular. Eventually, rather than bringing the curious onlookers to her she began traveling. By visiting small towns and cities and performing for the public, she ended up earning up to $450 a week.

Eventually, famed showman P.T. Barnum heard about her and hired her for his show.

For four years, she continued to work for Barnum and even inspired several other showmen to produce fake four-legged humans for their own shows when they couldn’t get her.


At 18 years old, Myrtle Corbin retired from the sideshow business. She’d met a doctor named Clinton Bicknell and fallen in love. At 19, the two were married.

About a year later in the spring of 1887, Myrtle Corbin discovered she was pregnant. She’d gone to a doctor in Blountsville, Ala., complaining of pain in her left side, fever, headache, and a decreased appetite. Despite her unique anatomy (she had two sets of internal and external reproductive anatomies), doctors did not believe there was a reason she couldn’t carry to term.


Though she became gravely ill during the first three months of her pregnancy, resulting in her doctor performing an abortion, she ended up giving birth to four more healthy children in her life.

After performing in the sideshow and giving birth to her children, Myrtle Corbin’s life was rather normal. Though her case continued to pop up in medical journals around the country, she maintained a quiet existence in her Texas home with her husband and children.

Eventually in 1928, she died as the result of a streptococcal skin infection. Though antibiotics make the condition easily treatable today, in the 1920s there was no such treatment available.


Stanislaus Berent  was an American freak who performed at many freak shows, including the World Circus Sideshow in 1941 under the stage name of Sealo the Seal Boy (often stylized to just Sealo). He was known for his seal-like arms, which were caused by a congenital medical condition known as phocomelia. In 2001, Mat Fraser's play inspired by Sealo called Sealboy: Freak debuted. Berent was born November 24, 1901 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He was brought up as a Polish Catholic and suffered from an extremely rare congenital disorder known as phocomelia, which caused his "seal arms".  He had no arms; his hands grew from his shoulders. Sealo started off his career as a newspaper seller, then was discovered by freak scouters.He  was a regular feature at Coney Island's freak show from circa 1920 to 1970[4] and was exaggerated as a human with a seal body on some promotional sideshow posters. Despite his genetic disability, Sealo was still able to carry out feats like sawing a crate in half and shaving with a straight razor on his own, as well as moulding animal figurines out of clay. His partner on-stage was Toby, a chimpanzee. Sealo had trouble getting up and down the performance stage due to his weak legs. He would spend the time in which he was not performing on stage selling pitch cards. After performing, he preferred resting at hotels to sleeping at the fairground. He performed at the World Circus Sideshow in 1941. He also toured around the world and performed at many other freak shows.

Sealo's freak show career lasted for thirty-five years; he retired in 1976 and moved to Showmen's Retirement Village in Gibsonton, Florida. He returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh afterwards when his health started to decline.  He spent his final days at a Catholic hospital and died in 1980.


The Muse brothers had an incredible career. The story of the two black albino brothers from Roanoke, Virginia is unique even in the bizarre world of freaks and sideshows. They were initially exploited and then later hailed for their unintentional role in civil rights.

Born in the 1890’s the pair were scouted by sideshow agents and kidnapped in 1899 by bounty hunters working in the employ of an unknown sideshow promoter. Black albinos, being extremely rare, would have been an extremely lucrative attraction. They were falsely told that their mother was dead, and that they would never be returning home.

The brothers began to tour. To accentuate their already unusual appearance, their handler had the brothers grow out their hair into long white dreadlocks. In 1922 showman Al G. Barnes began showcasing the brothers in his circus as White Ecuadorian cannibals Eko and Iko. When that gimmick failed to attract crowds the brothers were rechristened the ‘Sheep-Headed Men’ and later, in 1923, the ‘Ambassadors from Mars’.

As the ‘Men from Mars’ the two traveled extensively with the Barnes circus. Unfortunately, while they were being fed, housed and trained in playing the mandolin, they were not being paid.

In the mid 1920’s the Muse brothers toured with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. In 1927, while visiting their hometown, their mother finally tracked them down. She fought to free her sons, some 20 years after their disappearance. She threatened to sue and the Muse brothers were freed.

The brothers filed a lawsuit for the wages they earned but were never paid. They initially demanded a lump-sum payment of 100,000. However, as time passed the Muse brothers missed the crowds, the attention and the opportunities sideshow provided. Their lawyer got them a smaller lump-sum payment and a substantial contract with a flat monthly wage. The pair returned to show business in 1928.

During their first season back they played Madison Square Garden and drew over 10,000 spectators during each of their performances. They made spectacular money as their new contract allowed them to sell their own merchandise and keep all the profits for themselves. In the 1930’s they toured Europe, Asia and Australia. They performed for royals and dignitaries including the Queen of England. In 1937 they returned to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for several years and finally ended their career in 1961 with the Clyde Beatty Circus.

The brothers returned to their hometown and lived together in a house they originally purchased for their mother. Neither brother married, though they were well known for their many extravagant courtships.

George Muse died in 1971 and many expected Willie to quickly follow his brother. Those people were wrong as Willie continued to play his mandolin and enjoy the company friends and family until his death on Good Friday of 2001.

He was 108 years old.

These are just a few of the many many many circus freaks throughout history. We purposefully did not cover guys like The Elephant Man and other more popular ones as we wanted to bring you some interesting ones you may not know about, except maybe the lobster boy but that shit is crazy! There are some more interesting stories and Coney Island deserves its own discussion...can you say….BONUS episode!!!

















October 5, 2020

Charles Manson

Manson was born to a 15 or 16 year old (depending on the source) girl in Cincinnati Oh. on Nov 12,1934. His Mother, Kathleen Maddox, did not even bother to give him a real name on his birth certificate. On it he is listed as No Name Maddox. There is not 100% surety who his father is, but most likely it is a man named Colonel Scott Sr. When Kathleen told him she was pregnant he told her he'd been called away on army business, which he lied to her about being in, and after several months she realized he was not returning.  It is assumed this is the father as Kathleen brought a paternity suit against Scott and this lead to an agreed judgement in 1937, which is basically a settlement between the two without Scott having to admit to being the father. Within the first few weeks Kathleen decided on the name Charles Milles after her father. Kathleen, then had a short lived marriage to a man named William Eugene Manson. The marriage lasted around three years, during which time Kathleen often went on drinking benders with her brother Luther. She would leave Charles with different babysitters all the time. This obviously caused issues with William and he filed for divorce citing “gross neglect of duty” on the part of Kathleen. Charles would retain the last name of Manson after the divorce as he was born after the two married. During one of her drinking sprees she had taken Charles with her to a cafe. The waitress commented about how cute Charles was and that she wanted kids of her own. Kathleen said to the waitress “ pitcher of beer and he’s yours.” The waitress obviously presumed she was kidding but brought her an extra pitcher of beer anyway to be nice. Well, true to her word, Kathleen finished her pitcher and left, leaving the boy there. Days later Manson's uncle would track him down and bring him home. What. The. Fuck!


        When he was 5 years old, his mother and her brother Luther were arrested for robbing a man. Mother of the year, folks! Reportedly, Luther pressed a ketchup bottle filled with salt into The man's back, pretending it was a gun. He then smashed the bottle over The man’s head, and the siblings stole $27 before fleeing. Police caught up to the pair shortly after and arrested the two. Kathkleen received 5 years in prison and Luther 10. Charles was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in west virginia. Biographer Jeff Guinn related a story about Manson's childhood. When Manson was 5 years old and living with his family in West Virginia, his uncle reportedly forced him to wear his cousin Jo Ann's dress to school as punishment for crying in front of his first-grade class. In the biography, Guinn shares his perspective


“It didn't matter what some teacher had done to make him cry; what was important was to do something drastic that would convince Charlie never to act like a sissy again.”


  In first grade, Manson persuaded girls to beat up the boys he didn't like. When the principal questioned him, Manson offered the same defense he would later use after influencing his Family to commit the Tate-LaBianca murders: 


“It wasn't me; they were doing what they wanted.”


In 1942, the prison released Manson’s mother, Kathleen, on parole after she served three years. When she returned home, she gave Manson a hug. He later described this as his only happy memory from childhood. A few weeks after this homecoming, the family would move to Charleston WV. Here Manson would constantly be truant from school and his mother continued her hard drinking ways. His mother was again arrested for theft but was not convicted. After this the family would move again, this time to Indianapolis. While in Indianapolis his mother met an alcoholic with the last name Lewis while attending AA meetings. The two would marry in 1943. That same year Manson claims to have set his school on fire at the age of 9. 


*christmas present story*


      At the age of 13 Manson was placed into the Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute Indiana. The school was for delinquent boys and run by strict catholic priests. There were severe punishments for even minor infractions, obviously. These included beating with a wooden paddle or lashes from a leather strap. Manson escaped the school and slept in the woods, under bridges and pretty much anywhere he could find shelter. He made his way back home and spent Christmas of 1947 with his aunt and uncle back in WV. After this his mother sent him back to the school where he would escape, yet again ten  months later and headed back to Indy. There, in 1948 he would commit his first known crime. He would rob a grocery store looking for something to eat, but came across a box containing around 100 dollars. He would take this and get a hotel room in a shitty part of town and buy food as well.


       After this robbery he tried to get on the straight and narrow by getting a job delivering messages for Western Union. The straight path he was on would not last long though, as he started to supplement his income with petty theft. He was caught and in 1949 a judge sent him to Boys Town, a juvenile facility in Omaha, Nebraska. After spending a whopping 4 days at Boys Town, Manson and a fellow student named Blackie Nielson obtained a gun and stole a car. The boys decided to head to Nielson’s uncle's house in Peoria IL. Along the way they would commit two armed robberies. When they got to the uncle’s, who was a professional thief, they were recruited as apprentices in thievery. Manson was arrested a couple weeks  later as part of a raid and during the subsequent investigation was linked to the two earlier armed robberies. He was then sent to the Indiana School For Boys, another very strict reform school. 


     At the reform school Manson alleged to have been raped by other students at the urging of a staff member. He was also beaten very often and ran away from the school 18..count em...18 times! Manson developed what he called “the insane game” as a form of self defense while at the school.  When he was physically unable to defend himself, he would start screaming and screeching, making faces and grimacing, and waving his arms all over the place in an attempt to make his attackers think he was insane! After all of his failed attempts at running away and escaping, he finally succeeded in escaping with two other boys in february of 1951. The three boys decided to head to california, stealing cars and robbing gas stations along the way. They ended up getting arrested in Utah and Manson was sent to the National Training Center for Boys in  washington dc for the federal crime of driving a stolen car across state lines. When he got to the center he was given a test that determined he was illiterate even though he showed a slightly above average IQ of 109. Average in the US is around 98-100. Hise caseworker also deemed him “aggressively antisocial”


When Charlie was being considered for a transfer to Natural Bridge Honor Camp, a minimum security institution, a psychiatric evaluation was required.

On October 24 1951, Charlie was transferred to the Natural Bridge Honor Camp in Petersburg, Virginia. His parole hearing was scheduled for February 1952. On October 24, 1951, when his Aunt Joanne visited, she promised Charlie and the authorities that when he was released, she and his Uncle Bill would look after him, provide him with a place to live, and a job.

Psychiatrist Dr. Block, explained in a prison and probation report that his life of abuse, rejection, instability, and emotional pain had turned him into a slick but extremely sensitive boy:

        "[Manson] Tries to give the impression of trying hard although actually not putting forth any effort ... marked degree of rejection, instability and psychic trauma ... constantly striving for status ... a fairly slick institutionalized youth who has not given up in terms of securing some kind of love and affection from the world ... dangerous ... should not be trusted across the street ... homosexual and assaultative [sic] tendencies ... safe only under supervision ... unpredictable ... in spite of his age he is criminally sophisticated and grossly unsuited for retention in an open reformatory type institution.”

In January 1952, less than a month before his parole date, Charlie sodomized a boy with a razor to his throat. He was reclassified him as dangerous and transferred to a tougher, higher security, lock up facility; the Federal Reformatory at Petersburg, Virginia,.

By August 1952, he had eight major violations including three sexual assaults. He was classified as a dangerous offender and characterized as "defiantly homosexual, dangerous, and safe only under supervision" and as having "assaultive tendencies."

September 22 1952, Charlie was transferred to the Federal Reformatory in Chillicothe, Ohio, a higher security institution. He was a "model prisoner." There was a major improvement in his attitude. He learned to read and understand math. On January 1, 1954, he was honored with a Meritorious Service Award for his scholastic accomplishments and his work in the Transportation Unit for maintenance and repair of institution vehicles.

While incarcerated at Chillicothe, Charlie met the notorious American Syndicate gangster, Frank Costello, aka "Prime Minister of the Underworld," a close associate of the powerful underworld boss, Lucky Luciano.

In the book, Manson: In His Own Words (1986), by Nuel Emmons, Manson, obviously impressed by with Costello's professional crime background states:

"When I walked down the halls with him [Costello] or sat at the same table for meals, I probably experienced the same sensation an honest kid would get out of being with Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantel: admiration bordering on worship. To me, if Costello did something, right or wrong, that was the way it was supposed to be... Yeah, I admired Frank Costello, and I listened to and believed everything he said."

Charlie's parole on May 8, 1954, stipulated that he live with Aunt Joanne and Uncle Bill in McMechen, West Virginia. Now at nineteen years-old, for the first time since his mother gave him up when he was 12, Charlie was legally free .

Soon after Manson gained his freedom, his mother was released from prison. She moved to nearby Wheeling, West Virginia and soon Charlie moved in with her.

In January 1955, Manson married a hospital waitress named Rosalie Jean Willis. Around October, about three months after he and his pregnant wife arrived in Los Angeles in a car he had stolen in Ohio, Manson was again charged with a federal crime for taking the vehicle across state lines. After a psychiatric evaluation, he was given five years' probation. Manson's failure to appear at a Los Angeles hearing on an identical charge filed in Florida resulted in his March 1956 arrest in Indianapolis. His probation was revoked; he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment at Terminal Island, San Pedro, California.

While Manson was in prison, Rosalie gave birth to their son Charles Manson Jr. During his first year at Terminal Island, Manson received visits from Rosalie and his mother, who were now living together in Los Angeles. In March 1957, when the visits from his wife ceased, his mother informed him Rosalie was living with another man. Less than two weeks before a scheduled parole hearing, Manson tried to escape by stealing a car. He was given five years' probation and his parole was denied.

Manson received five years' parole in September 1958, the same year in which Rosalie received a decree of divorce. By November, he was pimping a 16-year-old girl and was receiving additional support from a girl with wealthy parents. In September 1959, he pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to cash a forged U.S. Treasury check, which he claimed to have stolen from a mailbox; the latter charge was later dropped. He received a 10-year suspended sentence and probation after a young woman named Leona, who had an arrest record for prostitution, made a "tearful plea" before the court that she and Manson were "deeply in love ... and would marry if Charlie were freed".  Before the year's end, the woman did marry Manson, possibly so she would not be required to testify against him.

Manson took Leona and another woman to New Mexico for purposes of prostitution, resulting in him being held and questioned for violating the Mann Act. Though he was released, Manson correctly suspected that the investigation had not ended. When he disappeared in violation of his probation, a bench warrant was issued. An indictment for violation of the Mann Act followed in April 1960. Following the arrest of one of the women for prostitution, Manson was arrested in June in Laredo, Texas, and was returned to Los Angeles. For violating his probation on the check-cashing charge, he was ordered to serve his ten-year sentence.

Manson spent a year trying unsuccessfully to appeal the revocation of his probation. In July 1961, he was transferred from the Los Angeles County Jail to the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington. There, he took guitar lessons from Barker–Karpis gang leader Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, and obtained from another inmate a contact name of someone at Universal Studios in Hollywood, Phil Kaufman.  According to Jeff Guinn's 2013 biography of Manson, his mother moved to Washington State to be closer to him during his McNeil Island incarceration, working nearby as a waitress.

Although the Mann Act charge had been dropped, the attempt to cash the Treasury check was still a federal offense. Manson's September 1961 annual review noted he had a "tremendous drive to call attention to himself", an observation echoed in September 1964.  In 1963, Leona was granted a divorce. During the process she alleged that she and Manson had a son, Charles Luther. According to a popular urban legend, Manson auditioned unsuccessfully for the Monkees in late 1965; this is refuted by the fact that Manson was still incarcerated at McNeil Island at that time.

In June 1966, Manson was sent for the second time to Terminal Island in preparation for early release. By the time of his release day on March 21, 1967, he had spent more than half of his 32 years in prisons and other institutions. This was mainly because he had broken federal laws. Federal sentences were, and remain, much more severe than state sentences for many of the same offenses. Telling the authorities that prison had become his home, he requested permission to stay. 

In 1967, 32-year-old Charles Manson was released from prison once again (this time, from a correctional facility in the state of Washington). He then made his way to San Francisco and quickly found a home in the counter-culture movement there.

Manson created a cult around himself called the "Family" that he hoped to use to bring about Armageddon through a race war. He named this scenario "Helter Skelter," after the 1968 Beatles song of the same name.

Living mostly by begging, Manson soon became acquainted with Mary Brunner, a 23-year-old graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Brunner was working as a library assistant at the University of California, Berkeley, and Manson moved in with her. According to a second-hand account, he overcame her resistance to his bringing other women in to live with them. Before long, they were sharing Brunner's residence with eighteen other women.

Manson established himself as a guru in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, which during 1967's "Summer of Love" was emerging as the signature hippie locale. Manson appeared to have borrowed his philosophy from the Process Church of the Final Judgment, whose members believed Satan would become reconciled to Christ and they would come together at the end of the world to judge humanity. Manson soon had the first of his groups of followers, which have been called the "Manson Family", most of them female. Manson taught his followers that they were the reincarnation of the original Christians, and that the Romans were the establishment. He strongly implied that he was Christ; he often told a story envisioning himself on the cross with the nails in his feet and hands. Sometime around 1967, he began using the alias "Charles Willis Manson." He often said it very slowly ("Charles's Will Is Man's Son")—implying that his will was the same as that of the Son of Man.

Before the end of the summer, Manson and eight or nine of his enthusiasts piled into an old school bus they had re-wrought in hippie style, with colored rugs and pillows in place of the many seats they had removed. They roamed as far north as Washington state, then southward through Los Angeles, Mexico, and the American Southwest. Returning to the Los Angeles area, they lived in Topanga Canyon, Malibu, and Venice—western parts of the city and county.

Having learned how to play guitar in prison he did his best to wow artists like Neil Young and The Mamas and Papas, his idiosyncratic folk music failed to generate enthusiasm until he was introduced to Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, who saw talent in Manson's playing.  Wilson allowed Manson and several of "his girls" — who had by now begun coalescing around him because they believed he was a  guru with prophetic powers — to stay with him at his mansion in June 1968. Wilson eventually kicked them out after they began causing trouble, but Manson later accused the Beach Boys of reworking one of his songs and including it on their 1969 album "20/20" without crediting him.


In 1967, Brunner became pregnant by Manson and, on April 15, 1968, gave birth to a son she named Valentine Michael (nicknamed "Pooh Bear") in a condemned house in Topanga Canyon, assisted during the birth by several of the young women from the Family. Brunner (like most members of the group) acquired a number of aliases and nicknames, including: "Marioche", "Och", "Mother Mary", "Mary Manson", "Linda Dee Manson" and "Christine Marie Euchts".

 Manson established a base for the Family at the Spahn Ranch in August 1968 after Wilson's landlord evicted them. It had been a television and movie set for Westerns, but the buildings had deteriorated by the late 1960s and the ranch's revenue was primarily derived from selling horseback rides. Female Family members did chores around the ranch and, occasionally, had sex on Manson's orders with the nearly blind 80 year-old owner George Spahn. The women also acted as seeing-eye guides for him. In exchange, Spahn allowed Manson and his group to live at the ranch for free.  Lynette Fromme acquired the nickname "Squeaky" because she often squeaked when Spahn pinched her thigh.

Charles Watson, a small-town Texan who had quit college and moved to California, soon joined the group at the ranch. He met Manson at Wilson's house; Watson had given Wilson a ride while Wilson was hitchhiking after his car was wrecked. Spahn nicknamed him "Tex" because of his pronounced Texas drawl. Manson follower Dianne Lake (just 14 when she met Manson) detailed long nights of lectures, in which Manson instructed others at the ranch to take LSD and listen to him preach about the past, present and future of humanity.



With his “family” coming together, manson began his work with Helter Skelter. The following excerpt about Helter Skelter is taken from wikipedia, Sources were double check for accuracy and we just figured this would be a quick review. We have added a few things to fill it don't @ us bros ;) 

In the first days of November 1968, Manson established the Family at alternative headquarters in Death Valley's environs, where they occupied two unused or little-used ranches, Myers and Barker.[20][25] The former, to which the group had initially headed, was owned by the grandmother of a new woman (Catherine Gillies) in the Family. The latter was owned by an elderly local woman (Arlene Barker) to whom Manson presented himself and a male Family member as musicians in need of a place congenial to their work. When the woman agreed to let them stay if they'd fix things up, Manson honored her with one of the Beach Boys' gold records,[25] several of which he had been given by Wilson.[26]

While back at Spahn Ranch, no later than December, Manson and Watson visited a Topanga Canyon acquaintance who played them the Beatles' recently released double album, The Beatles (also known as the "White Album").[20][27][28] Manson became obsessed with the group.[29] At McNeil Island prison, Manson had told fellow inmates, including Karpis, that he could surpass the group in fame;[7]:200–202, 265[30] to the Family, he spoke of the group as "the soul" and "part of the hole in the infinite".[28]

For some time, Manson had been saying that racial tensions between blacks and whites were about to erupt, predicting that blacks would rise up in rebellion in America's cities.[31][32] On a bitterly cold New Year's Eve at Myers Ranch, as the Family gathered outside around a large fire, Manson explained that the social turmoil he had been predicting had also been predicted by the Beatles.[28] The White Album songs, he declared, foretold it all in code. In fact, he maintained (or would soon maintain), the album was directed at the Family, an elect group that was being instructed to preserve the worthy from the impending disaster.[31][32]

In early January 1969, the Family left the desert's cold and moved to a canary-yellow home in Canoga Park, not far from the Spahn Ranch.[7]:244–247[28][33] Because this locale would allow the group to remain "submerged beneath the awareness of the outside world",[7]:244–247[34] Manson called it the Yellow Submarine, another Beatles reference. There, Family members prepared for the impending apocalypse, which around the campfire Manson had termed "Helter Skelter", after the song of that name.

By February, Manson's vision was complete. The Family would create an album whose songs, as subtle as those of the Beatles, would trigger the predicted chaos. Ghastly murders of whites by blacks would be met with retaliation, and a split between racist and non-racist whites would yield whites' self-annihilation. The blacks' triumph, as it were, would merely precede their being ruled by the Family, which would ride out the conflict in "the bottomless pit", a secret city beneath Death Valley. At the Canoga Park house, while Family members worked on vehicles and pored over maps to prepare for their desert escape, they also worked on songs for their world-changing album. When they were told Melcher was to come to the house to hear the material, the women prepared a meal and cleaned the place. However, Melcher never arrived. 


Crimes of the Family


On May 18, 1969, Terry Melcher visited Spahn Ranch to hear Manson and the women sing. Melcher arranged a subsequent visit, not long thereafter, during which he brought a friend who possessed a mobile recording unit, but Melcher did not record the group.

By June, Manson was telling the Family they might have to show blacks how to start "Helter Skelter". When Manson tasked Watson with obtaining money, supposedly intended to help the Family prepare for the conflict, Watson defrauded a black drug dealer named Bernard "Lotsapoppa" Crowe. Crowe responded with a threat to wipe out everyone at Spahn Ranch. The family countered on July 1, 1969, by shooting Crowe at Manson's Hollywood apartment.

Manson's belief that he had killed Crowe was seemingly confirmed by a news report of the discovery of the dumped body of a Black Panther in Los Angeles. Although Crowe was not a member of the Black Panthers, Manson concluded he had been and expected retaliation from the Panthers. He turned Spahn Ranch into a defensive camp, with night patrols of armed guards.] "If we'd needed any more proof that Helter Skelter was coming down very soon, this was it," Tex Watson would later write. "Blackie was trying to get at the chosen ones."


Gary Allen Hinman


The murder of Gary Hinman committed by Bobby Beausoleil forever changed the course of the now-infamous cult; at one time sold to followers as the embodiment of free love, the incident set Manson’s cult on a path for the unparalleled brutality and violence that continues to captivate the world nearly 50 years after the fact.

New murder minutiae

Beausoleil provided new details about the murder that started it all as part of a two-hour Fox special “Inside the Manson Cult: The Lost Tapes" that aired in 2018. 

As part of the jailhouse interview, Beausoleil detailed Hinman's relationship to the Family, the circumstances around the 34-year-old musician's death, and why Beausoleil felt he "had no way out" other than going forward with his brutal act.

"Fear is not a rational emotion and when it sets in. Things get out of control—as they certainly did with Charlie and me," he said during the special.

Hinman, a talented piano player who once played at Carnegie Hall, was described by his cousin as a "lost artistic soul,” according to People magazine—one who would wind up falling in with the wrong crowd and befriending the Manson Family.


"Gary was a friend. He didn't do anything to deserve what happened to him and I am responsible for that," Beausoleil said from the California Medical Facility, a male prison, where he's serving a life sentence.

According to Dianne Lake, who also participated in the TV special to discuss her time as a Manson devotee, Family members had been to Hinman's house several times before his murder. Beausoleil had purchased drugs from Hinman during the summer of 1969. He sold them to another person, who then complained about their quality, causing Beausoleil to need his money back. "Bobby was driven over there to make it right with two girls that knew Gary very well. In fact, I think he had slept with both of them: Susan Atkins and Mary Brunner," former follower Catherine "Gypsy" Share said during the special. But Hinman didn't have the money. After Beausoleil, an aspiring actor and musician, roughed Gary up a bit, they called Manson, who decided to come to the house with a samurai sword.


When he arrived, Manson took the sword and made a swipe across Hinman's face from his ear down his cheek. "It was bleeding a lot," John Douglas, a retired FBI agent who later interviewed Manson, said in the special. Beausoleil asked Manson why he had cut the man's face. "He said, 'To show you how to be a man.' His exact words," Beausoleil said. "I will never forget that."

According to Beausoleil, who at one time was given the nickname "Cupid" for his good looks, he tried to patch the wound up and "make things right." Hinman, however, insisted on receiving medical attention—which is when things took a fatal turn.

"I knew if I took him, I'd end up going to prison. Gary would tell on me, for sure, and he would tell on Charlie and everyone else," Beausoleil said in the interview "It was at that point I realized I had no way out."According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Hinman was tortured over three days before he was killed. Beausoleil, for  his part, admitted to stabbing Hinman twice in the chest. The family reportedly used Hinman’s blood to scribble the words “Political Piggy” on the wall after the murder, according to CBS News, and also included a panther paw to try and pin the slaying on the Black Panthers (Manson was known for his desire to incite a race war).Beausoleil, along with Bruce Davis, was later arrested for  the murder.

The murder catapulted the Manson family into a new level of violence. Although they had been training and preparing for a supposed race war for some time at Spahn Ranch, they had now become the aggressors and instigators of violence.

"This is when things start getting really dire, I mean really murderous," Lake said during the Fox program. Several weeks later, Manson Family followers would go on to murder Tate, writer Wojciech Frykowski, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent, who had come to  visit the gardener on Polanski’s property. The next night, the group would break into the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and kill the couple. Beausoleil was sentenced to death for his role in Hinman’s murder, but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison. In January of 2019, he was recommended for parole during his 19th appearance before a parole board, according to CNN. His attorney Jason Campbell argued that he should be released from prison because he hasn't been a danger to society in decades. "He has spent the last 50 years gradually growing and improving himself and in particular, over the last few decades, he's been pretty much a model inmate," he said.However, California Gov. Gavin Newsom later overruled the recommendation, keeping Beusoleil behind bars, the Associated Press reports.As he sat in his cell and reflected on his past crime, Beausoleil told the team behind the Fox special that he is filled with regret over the death of his one-time friend."What I've wished a thousand times is that I had faced the music,” he said. “Instead, I killed him.”

Tate- Labianca murders

On the night of August 8, 1969, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian were sent by Charlie to the old home of Terry Melcher at 10050 Cielo Drive. Their instructions were to kill everyone at the house and make it appear like Hinman's murder, with words and symbols written in blood on the walls. As Charlie Manson had said earlier in the day after choosing the group, "Now is the time for Helter Skelter."

What the group did not know was that Terry Melcher was no longer residing in the home and that it was being rented by film director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate. Tate was two weeks away from giving birth and Polanski was delayed in London while working on his film, The Day of the Dolphin. Because Sharon was so close to giving birth, the couple arranged for friends to stay with her until Polanski could get home.

After dining together at the El Coyote restaurant, Sharon Tate, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, Folger coffee heiress Abigail Folger and her lover Wojciech Frykowski, returned to the Polanski's home on Cleo Drive at around 10:30 p.m. Wojciech fell asleep on the living room couch, Abigail Folger went to her bedroom to read, and Sharon Tate and Sebring were in Sharon's bedroom talking.

Steve Parent

Just after midnight, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Kasabian arrived at the house. Watson climbed a telephone pole and cut the phone line going to the Polanski's house. Just as the group entered the estate grounds, they saw a car approaching. Inside the car was 18-year-old Steve Parent who had been visiting the property's caretaker, William Garreston.

As Parent approached the driveway's electronic gate, he rolled down the window to reach out and push the gate's button, and Watson descended on him, yelling at him to halt. Seeing that Watson was armed with a revolver and knife, Parent began to plead for his life. Unfazed, Watson slashed at Parent, then shot him four times, killing him instantly.

The Rampage Inside

After murdering Parent, the group headed for the house. Watson told Kasabian to be on the lookout by the front gate. The other three family members entered the Polanski home. Charles "Tex" Watson went to the living room and confronted Frykowski who was asleep. Not fully awake, Frykowski asked what time it was and Watson kicked him in the head. When Frykowski asked who he was, Watson answered, "I'm the devil and I'm here to do the devil's business."

Susan Atkins went to Sharon Tate's bedroom with a buck knife and ordered Tate and Sebring to go into the living room. She then went and got Abigail Folger. The four victims were told to sit on the floor. Watson tied a rope around Sebring's neck, flung it over a ceiling beam, then tied the other side around Sharon's neck. Watson then ordered them to lie on their stomachs. When Sebring voiced his concerns that Sharon was too pregnant to lay on her stomach, Watson shot him and then kicked him while he died.

Knowing now that the intent of the intruders was murder, the three remaining victims began to struggle for survival. Patricia Krenwinkel attacked Abigail Folger and after being stabbed multiple times, Folger broke free and attempted to run from the house. Krenwinkel followed close behind and managed to tackle Folger out on the lawn and stabbed her repeatedly.

Inside, Frykowski struggled with Susan Atkins when she attempted to tie his hands. Atkins stabbed him four times in the leg, then Watson came over and beat Frykowski over the head with his revolver. Frykowski somehow managed to escape out onto the lawn and began screaming for help.

While the microbe scene was going on inside the house, all Kasabian could hear was screaming. She ran to the house just as Frykowski was escaping out the front door. According to Kasabian, she looked into the eyes of the mutilated man and horrified at what she saw, she told him that she was sorry. Minutes later, Frykowski was dead on the front lawn.Watson shot him twice, then stabbed him to death.

Seeing that Krenwinkel was struggling with Folger, Watson went over and the two continued to stab Abigail mercilessly. According to killer's statements later given to the authorities, Abigail begged them to stop stabbing her saying, "I give up, you've got me", and "I'm already dead". 

The final victim at 10050 Cielo Drive was Sharon Tate. Knowing that her friends were likely dead, Sharon begged for the life of her baby. Unmoved, Atkins held Sharon Tate down while Watson stabbed her multiple times, killing her. Atkins then used Sharon's blood to write "Pig" on a wall. Atkins later said that Sharon Tate called out for her mother as she was being murdered and that she tasted her blood and found it "warm and sticky."

According to the autopsy reports, 102 stab wounds were found on the four victims.

The Labianca Murders

The next day Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Steve Grogan, Leslie Van Houten, and Linda Kasabian went to the home of Leno and Rosemary Labianca. Manson and Watson tied up the couple and Manson left. He told Van Houten and Krenwinkel to go in and kill the LaBiancas. The three separated the couple and murdered them, then had dinner and a shower and hitchhiked back to Spahn Ranch. Manson, Atkins, Grogan, and Kasabian drove around looking for other people to kill but failed.

Manson and The Family Arrested

At Spahn Ranch rumors of the group's involvement began to circulate. So did the police helicopters above the ranch, but because of an unrelated investigation. Parts of stolen cars were spotted in and around the ranch by police in the helicopters. On August 16, 1969, Manson and The Family were rounded up by police and taken in on suspicion of auto theft (not an unfamiliar charge for Manson). The search warrant ended up being invalid because of a date error and the group was released.

Charlie blamed the arrests on Spahn's ranch hand Donald "Shorty" Shea for snitching on the family. It was no secret that Shorty wanted the family off the ranch. Manson decided it was time for the family to move to Barker Ranch near Death Valley, but before leaving, Manson, Bruce Davis, Tex Watson and Steve Grogan killed Shorty and buried his body behind the ranch.

The Barker Ranch Raid

The Family moved onto the Barker Ranch and spent time turning stolen cars into dune buggies. On October 10, 1969, Barker Ranch was raided after investigators spotted stolen cars on the property and traced evidence of an arson back to Manson. Manson was not around during the first Family roundup, but returned on October 12 and was arrested with seven other family members. When police arrived Manson hid under a small bathroom cabinet but was quickly discovered.

The Confession of Susan Atkins

One of the biggest breaks in the case came when Susan Atkins boasted in detail about the murders to her prison cellmates. She gave specific details about Manson and the killings. She also told of other famous people the Family planned on killing. Her cellmate reported the information to the authorities and Atkins was offered a life sentence in return for her testimony. She refused the offer but repeated the prison cell story to the grand jury. Later Atkins recanted her grand jury testimony.

Investigation and Trial

On September 1, 1969, a ten-year-old boy in Sherman Oaks discovered a .22 caliber Longhorn revolver under a bush near his home. His parents notified the LAPD, who picked up the gun, but failed to make any connection between it and the Tate murders.

In October, Inyo County officers raided Barker Ranch, in a remote area south of Death Valley National Monument. Twenty-four members of the Manson Family were arrested, on charges of arson and grand theft. Cult leader Charles Manson (dressed entirely in buckskins) and Susan Atkins were among those arrested.

After her arrest, Atkins was housed at Dormitory 8000 in Los Angeles. On November 6, she told another inmate, Virginia Graham, an almost unbelievable tale. She told of "a beautiful cat" named Charles Manson. She told of murder: of finding Sharon Tate, in bed with her bikini bra and underpants, of her victim's futile cries for help, of tasting Tate's blood. Atkins expressed no remorse at all over the killings. She even told Graham a list of celebrities that she and other Family members planned to kill in the future, including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Tom Jones, Steve McQueen, and Frank Sinatra. Through an inmate friend of Graham's, Ronnie Howard, word of Atkins's amazing story soon reached the LAPD.

About the same time, detectives on the LaBianca case interviewed Al Springer, a member of the Straight Satan biker's group that Manson had tried to recruit into the Family. Word had leaked to police that the Straight Satans might have some knowledge about who was responsible for another recent murder with several similarities to the LaBianca killings. Springer told detectives that Manson had bragged to him in August at Spahn Ranch--after offering him his pick from among the eighteen or so "naked girls" scattered around the ranch--about "knocking off" five people. When Springer told detectives that Manson had said the Tate killers "wrote something on the...refrigerator in blood"--"something about pigs"--, the detectives knew they might be onto something. Still, it struck them as odd that anyone would confess to several murders to someone that they barely knew. It took another member of the Straight Satans, Danny DeCarlo, to move the focus of the investigation decisively to Charles Manson. DeCarlo told police he heard a Manson Family member brag, "We got five piggies," and that Manson had asked him what to use "to decompose a body."

On November 18, 1969, the District Attorney and his staff selected Vincent Bugliosi to be the chief prosecutor in the Tate-LaBianca case. The choice was no doubt influenced by Bugliosi's impressive record of winning 103 convictions in 104 felony trials. The day after getting the Tate-LaBianca assignment, Bugliosi joined in a search of the Spahn Movie Ranch, where police gathered .22 caliber bullets and shell casings from a canyon used by Family members for target practice. The next day, the search party moved on to isolated Barker Ranch, the most recent home of the Family, on the edge of Death Valley. In the small house at Barker Ranch, Bugliosi saw the small cabinet under the sink where Manson was found hiding during the October raid. On an abandoned bus in a gully, investigators discovered magazines from World War II, all containing articles about Hitler.

Based on Ronnie Howard's account of Susan Atkin's jailhouse confession and interviews conducted with various Manson Family members, the LAPD eventually identified the five persons who participated in the actual Tate and LaBianca murders. The suspects consisted of four women, all in their early twenties, and one man in his mid-twenties: Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, Linda Kasabian, and Charles "Tex" Watson. Atkins remained in custody at Dormitory 8000. Van Houten was picked up for questioning in California. Watson was arrested by a local sheriff in Texas. Patricia Krenwinkel was apprehended in Mobile, Alabama. Kasabian voluntarily surrendered to local police in Concord, New Hampshire.

Knowing that convictions of at least some defendant would require testimony from one of those persons present at the murders, the D. A.'s office first reached a deal with the attorney for Susan Atkins: a promise not to seek the death penalty in return for testimony before the Grand Jury, plus consideration of a further reduction in charges for her continued cooperation during the trial. Atkins appeared before the Grand Jury on December 5. She told the grand jury she was "in love with the reflection" of Charles Manson and that there was "no limit" to what she would do for him. In an emotionless voice, she described the horrific events in the early morning hours of August 9 at the Tate residence. She told of Tate pleading for her life: "Please let me go. All I want to do is have my baby." She described the actual murders, told of returning to the car and stopping along a side street to wash off bloody clothes with a garden house, and of Manson's reaction on their return to Spahn Ranch. Atkins said that on returning to Spahn Ranch she "felt dead." She added, "I feel dead now." After twenty minutes of deliberations, the grand jury returned murder indictments against Manson, Watson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, Kasabian, and Van Houten.


Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi talks to the press during trial

When efforts to extradite Tex Watson from became bogged down in local Texas politics, the District Attorney's Office decided to proceed against the four persons indicted for the Tate-LaBianca murders who were in custody in California. Jury selection began on June 15, 1970 in the eighth floor courtroom of Judge Charles Older in the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles. Manson's request to ask potential jurors "a few simple, childlike questions that are real to me in my reality" was denied. During the voir dire, Manson fixed his penetrating stare for hours, first on Judge Older and then one day on Prosecutor Bugliosi. After getting Manson's stare treatment, Bugliosi took advantage of a recess to slide his chair next to Manson and ask, "What are you trembling about Charlie? Are you afraid of me?" Manson responded, "Bugliosi, you think I'm bad and I'm not." He went on to tell Manson that Atkins was "just a stupid little bitch" who told a story "to get attention." After a month of voir dire, a jury of seven men and five women was selected. The jury knew it would be sequestered for a long time, but it didn't know how long. As it turned out, their sequestration would last 225 days, longer than any previous jury in history.

Opening statements began on July 24. Manson entered the courtroom sporting a freshly cut, bloody "X" on his forehead--signifying, he said in a statement, that "I have X'd myself from your world."

Bugliosi, in his opening statement for the prosecution, indicated that his "principal witness" would be Linda Kasabian, a Manson Family member who accompanied the killers to both the Tate and LaBianca residences. The prosecution turned to Kasabian, with a promise of prosecutorial immunity for her testimony, when Susan Atkins--probably in response to threats from Manson--announced that she would not testify at the trial. Bugliosi promised the jury that the evidence would show Manson had a motive for the murders that was "perhaps even more bizarre than the murders themselves."

On July 27, Bugliosi announced, "The People call Linda Kasabian." Manson's attorney, fabled obstructionist Irving Kanarek, immediately sprung up with an objection, "Object, Your Honor, on the grounds this witness is not competent and is insane!" Calling Kanarek to the bench and telling him his conduct was "outrageous," Judge Older denied the objection and Kasabian was sworn as a witness. She would remain on the stand for an astounding eighteen days, including seven days of cross-examination by Kanarek.

Linda Kasabian

Kasabian told the jury that no Family member ever refused an order from Charles Manson: "We always wanted to do anything and everything for him." After describing what she saw of the Tate murders, Kasabian was asked by Bugliosi about the return to Spahn Ranch:

"Was there anyone in the parking area at Spahn Ranch as you drove in the Spahn Ranch area?"


"Who was there?"


"Was there anyone there other than Charlie?"

"Not that I know of"

"Where was Charlie when you arrived at the premises?"

"About the same spot he was in when he first drove away."

"What happened after you pulled the car onto the parking area and parked the car?"

"Sadie said she saw a spot of blood on the outside of the car when we were at the gas station."

"Who was present at that time when she said that?"

"The four of us and Charlie."

"What is the next thing that happened?"

"Well, Charlie told us to go into the kitchen, get a sponge, wipe the blood off, and he also instructed Katie and I to go all through the car and wipe off the blood spots."

"What is the next thing that happened after Mr. Manson told you and Katie to check out the car and remove the blood?"

"He told us to go into the bunk room and wait, which we did."

Kasabian also offered her account of the night of the LaBianca murders. She testified that she didn't want to go, but went anyway "because Charlie asked me and I was afraid to say no."

Kasabian proved a very credible witness, despite the best efforts during cross-examination of defense attorneys to make her appear a spaced-out hippie. After admitting that she took LSD about fifty times, Kasabian was asked by Kanarek, "Describe what happened on trip number 23." Other defense questions explored her beliefs in ESP and witchcraft or focused on the "vibrations" she claimed to receive from Manson.

A major distraction from Kasabian's testimony came on August 3, when Manson stood before the jury and held up a copy of the Los Angeles Times with the headline, "MANSON GUILTY, NIXON DECLARES." The defense moved for a mistrial on the grounds that the headline prejudiced the jury against the defense, but Judge Older denied the motion after each juror stated under oath that he or she would not be influenced by the President's reported declaration of guilt.

Testimony corroborating that of Kasabian came from several other prosecution witnesses, most notably the woman Atkins confided in at Dormitory 8000, Virginia Graham. Other witnesses described receiving threats from Manson, evidence of Manson's total control over the lives of Family members, or conversations in which Manson had told of the coming Helter Skelter.

Nineteen-year-old Paul Watkins, Manson's foremost recruiter of young women, provided key testimony about the strange motive for the Tate-LaBianca murders--including its link to the Bible's Book of Revelation. Watkins testified that Manson discussed Helter Skelter "constantly." Bugliosi asked Watkins how Helter Skelter would start:

"There would be some atrocious murders; that some of the spades from Watts would come up into the Bel-Air and Beverly Hills district and just really wipe some people out, just cut bodies up and smear blood and write things on the wall in blood, and cut little boys up and make parents watch. So, in retaliation-this would scare; in other words, all the other white people would be afraid that this would happen to them, so out of their fear they would go into the ghetto and just start shooting black people like crazy. But all they would shoot would be the garbage man and Uncle Toms, and all the ones that were with Whitey in the first place. And underneath it all, the Black Muslims would-he would know that it was coming down."

"Helter Skelter was coming down?"

"Yes. So, after Whitey goes in the ghettoes and shoots all the Uncle Toms, then the Black Muslims come out and appeal to the people by saying, 'Look what you have done to my people.' And this would split Whitey down the middle, between all the hippies and the liberals and all the up-tight piggies. This would split them in the middle and a big civil war would start and really split them up in all these different factions, and they would just kill each other off in the meantime through their war. And after they killed each other off, then there would be a few of them left who supposedly won."

"A few of who left?"

"A few white people left who supposedly won. Then the Black Muslims would come out of hiding and wipe them all out."

"Wipe the white people out?"

"Yes. By sneaking around and slitting their throats."

"Did Charlie say anything about where he and the Family would be during this Helter Skelter?"

"Yes. When we was [sic] in the desert the first time, Charlie used to walk around in the desert and say-you see, there are places where water would come up to the top of the ground and then it would go down and there wouldn't be no more water, and then it would come up again and go down again. He would look at that and say, 'There has got to be a hole somewhere, somewhere here, a big old lake.' And it just really got far out, that there was a hole underneath there somewhere where you could drive a speedboat across it, a big underground city. Then we started from the 'Revolution 9' song on the Beatles album which was interpreted by Charlie to mean the Revelation 9. So-"

"The last book of the New Testament?"

"Just the book of Revelation and the song would be 'Revelations 9: So, in this book it says, there is a part about, in Revelations 9, it talks of the bottomless pit. Then later on, I believe it is in 10."

"Revelation 10?"

"Yes. It talks about there will be a city where there will be no sun and there will be no moon."

"Manson spoke about this?"

"Yes, many times. That there would be a city of gold, but there would be no life, and there would be a tree there that bears twelve different kinds of fruit that changed every month. And this was interpreted to mean-this was the hole down under Death Valley."

"Did he talk about the twelve tribes of Israel?"

"Yes. That was in there, too. It was supposed to get back to the 144,000 people. The Family was to grow to this number."

"The twelve tribes of Israel being 144,000 people?"


"And Manson said that the Family would eventually increase to 144,000 people?"


"Did he say when this would take place?"

"Oh, yes. See, it was all happening simultaneously. In other words, as we are making the music and it is drawing all the young love to the desert, the Family increases in ranks, and at the same time this sets off Helter Skelter. So then the Family finds the hole in the meantime and gets down in the hole and lives there until the whole thing comes down."

"Until Helter Skelter comes down?"


"Did he say who would win this Helter Skelter?"

"The karma would have completely reversed, meaning that the black men would be on top and the white race would be wiped out; there would be none except for the Family."

"Except for Manson and the Family?"


"Did he say what the black man would do once he was all by himself?"

"Well, according to Charlie, he would clean up the mess, just like he always has done. He is supposed to be the servant, see. He will clean up the mess that he made, that the white man made, and build the world back up a little bit, build the cities back up, but then he wouldn't know what to do with it, he couldn't handle it."

"Blackie couldn't handle it?"

"Yes, and this is when the Family would come out of the hole, and being that he would have completed the white man's karma, then he would no longer have this vicious want to kill."

"When you say 'he,' you mean Blackie?"

"Blackie then would come to Charlie and say, you know, 'I did my thing, I killed them all and, you know, I am tired of killing now. It is all over.' And Charlie would scratch his fuzzy head and kick him in the butt and tell him to go pick the cotton and go be a good nigger, and he would live happily ever after."

On November 16, 1970, after twenty-two weeks of testimony, the prosecution rested its case.

Irving Kanarek, Manson's defense attorney

When the trial resumed three days later, the defense startled courtroom spectators and the prosecution by announcing, without calling a single witness, "The defense rests." Suddenly, the three female defendants began shouting that they wanted to testify. In chambers, attorneys for the women explained that although their clients wanted to testify, they were strongly opposed, believing that they would--still under the powerful influence of Manson--testify that they planned and committed the murders without Manson's help. Returning to the courtroom, Judge Older declared that the right to testify took precedence and said that the defendants could testify over the objections of their counsel. Atkins was then sworn as a witness, but her attorney, Daye Shinn, refused to question her. Returning to chambers, one defense attorney complained that questioning their clients on the stand would be like "aiding and abetting a suicide."

The next day came another surprise. Charles Manson announced that he, too, wished to testify--before his co-defendants did. He testified first without the jury being present, so that potentially excludable testimony relating to evidence incriminating co-defendants might be identified before it prejudiced the jury. His over one-hour of testimony, full of digressions, fascinated observers:

"I never went to school, so I never growed up to read and write too good, so I have stayed in jail and I have stayed stupid, and I have stayed a child while I have watched your world grow up, and then I look at the things that you do and I don't understand. . . .

"You eat meat and you kill things that are better than you are, and then you say how bad, and even killers, your children are. You made your children what they are. . . .

"These children that come at you with knives. they are your children. You taught them. I didn't teach them. I just tried to help them stand up. . .

"Most of the people at the ranch that you call the Family were just people that you did not want, people that were alongside the road, that their parents had kicked out, that did not want to go to Juvenile Hall. So I did the best I could and I took them up on my garbage dump and I told them this: that in love there is no wrong. . . .

"I told them that anything they do for their brothers and sisters is good if they do it with a good thought. . . .

"I don't understand you, but I don't try. I don't try to judge nobody. I know that the only person I can judge is me . . . But I know this: that in your hearts and your own souls, you are as much responsible for the Vietnam war as I am for killing these people. . . .

"I can't judge any of you. I have no malice against you and no ribbons for you. But I think that it is high time that you all start looking at yourselves, and judging the lie that you live in.

"I can't dislike you, but I will say this to you: you haven't got long before you are all going to kill yourselves, because you are all crazy. And you can project it back at me . . . but I am only what lives inside each and everyone of you.

"My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system. . . I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you.

"I have ate out of your garbage cans to stay out of jail. I have wore your second-hand clothes. . . I have done my best to get along in your world and now you want to kill me, and I look at you, and then I say to myself, You want to kill me? Ha! I'm already dead, have been all my life. I've spent twenty-three years in tombs that you built.

"Sometimes I think about giving it back to you; sometimes I think about just jumping on you and letting you shoot me . . . If I could, I would jerk this microphone off and beat your brains out with it, because that is what you deserve, that is what you deserve. . . .

"These children [indicating the female defendants] were finding themselves. What they did, if they did whatever they did, is up to them. They will have to explain that to you. . . .

"You expect to break me? Impossible! You broke me years ago. You killed me years ago. . . .

"Mr. Bugliosi is a hard-driving prosecutor, polished education, a master of words, semantics. He is a genius. He has got everything that every lawyer would want to have except one thing: a case. He doesn't have a case. Were I allowed to defend myself, I could have proven this to you. . .The evidence in this case is a gun. There was a gun that laid around the ranch. It belonged to everybody. Anybody could have picked that gun up and done anything they wanted to do with it. I don't deny having that gun. That gun has been in my possession many times. Like the rope was there because you need rope on a ranch. . . .It is really convenient that Mr. Baggot found those clothes. I imagine he got a little taste of money for that. . . .They put the hideous bodies on [photographic] display and they imply: If he gets out, see what will happen to you. . . .[Helter Skelter] means confusion, literally. It doesn't mean any war with anyone. It doesn't mean that some people are going to kill other people. . . Helter Skelter is confusion. Confusion is coming down around you fast. If you can't see the confusion coming down around you fast, you can call it what you wish. . Is it a conspiracy that the music is telling the youth to rise up against the establishment because the establishment is rapidly destroying things? Is that a conspiracy? The music speaks to you every day, but you are too deaf, dumb, and blind to even listen to the music. . . It is not my conspiracy. It is not my music. I hear what it relates. It says "Rise," it says "Kill." Why blame it on me? I didn't write the music. . . .

"I haven't got any guilt about anything because I have never been able to see any wrong. . . I have always said: Do what your love tells you, and I do what my love tells me . . . Is it my fault that your children do what you do? What about your children? You say there are just a few? There are many, many more, coming in the same direction. They are running in the streets-and they are coming right at you!"

At the conclusion of Bugliosi's brief cross-examination of Manson, Older asked Manson if he now wished to testify before the jury. He replied, "I have already relieved all the pressure I had." Manson left the stand. As he walked by the counsel table, he told his three co-defendants, "You don't have to testify now."

There remained one last frightening surprise of the Tate-LaBianca murder trial. When the trial resumed on November 30 following Manson's testimony, Ronald Hughes, defense attorney for Leslie Van Houten failed to show. A subsequent investigation revealed he had disappeared over the weekend while camping in the remote Sespe Hot Springs area northwest of Los Angeles. It is widely believed that Hughes was ordered murdered by Manson for his determination to pursue a defense strategy at odds with that favored by Manson. Hughes had made clear his hope to show that Van Houten was not acting independently--as Manson suggested--but was completely controlled in her actions by Manson.

Manson's defense attorney, Irving Kanarek, argued to the jury that the female defendants committed the Tate and LaBianca murders out of a love of the crimes' true mastermind, the absent Tex Watson. Kanarek suggested that Manson was being persecuted because of his "life style." He argued that the prosecution's theory of a motive was fanciful. His argument lasted seven days, prompting Judge Older to call it "no longer an argument but a filibuster."

Bugliosi's powerful summation described Charles Manson as "the Mephistophelean guru" who "sent out from the fires of hell at Spahn Ranch three heartless, bloodthirsty robots and--unfortunately for him--one human being, the little hippie girl Linda Kasabian." Bugliosi ended his summation with "a roll call of the dead": "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Sharon Tate...Abigail Folger...Voytek Frykowski...Jay Sebring...Steven Parent...Leno LaBianca...Rosemary LaBianca...are not here with us in this courtroom, but from their graves they cry out for justice."

The jury deliberated a week before returning its verdict on January 25, 1971. The jury found all defendants guilty on each count of first-degree murder. After hearing additional evidence in the penalty phase of the trial, the jury completed its work by sentencing each of the four defendants to death on March 29. As the clerk read the verdict, Manson shouted, "You people have no authority over me." Patricia Krenwinkel declared, "You have judged yourselves." Susan Atkins said, "Better lock your doors and watch your own kids." Leslie Van Houten complained, "The whole system is a game." The trial was over. At over nine-months, it had been the longest and and most expensive in American history.


Manson at his 1992 parole hearing

The death sentences imposed by the Tate-LaBianca jury would never be imposed, thanks to a California Supreme Court ruling in 1972 declaring the state's death penalty law unconstitutional. The death sentences for the four convicted defendants, as well as for Tex Watson who had been convicted and sentenced to death in a separate trial in 1971, were commuted to life in prison. Patricia Krenwinkel, now 72, became California’s longest-serving female inmate. According to state prison officials, Krenwinkel is a model inmate involved in rehabilitative programs at the prison. She will be eligible to apply for parole again in 2022. Patricia Krenwinkel, now 70, is serving her life sentence at the California Institution for Women in Corona, prison officials say, and has been disciplinary-free her entire sentence. She is still considered to present an unreasonable threat to society. Charles “Tex” Watson, now 74, is housed at the RJ Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County near the Mexican border, where he walks the track “sharing my faith, relating to many men”, according to the ministry’s website. He has been denied parole 17 times. A state panel in 2016 once again found him unsuitable for release from prison for at least five more years. In prison, Watson married, divorced, fathered four children and became an ordained minister. Susan Atkins, dubbed “the scariest of all the girls” by a former prosecutor, died in prison in 2009 at age 61

Charles Manson was incarcerated in a maximum security section of a state penitentiary in Concoran, California. He has been denied parole twelve times, most recently in 2012. His next parole hearing was scheduled for 2027. In prison, he had assaulted prison staff a half dozen times. A search of the prison chapel where Manson took a job in 1980 revealed his hidden cache including marijuana, one hundred feet of nylon rope, and a mail-order catalog for hot air balloons. In 1986, he published his story, Manson in His Own Words. In his book, Manson claims: "My eyes are cameras. My mind is tuned to more television channels than exist in your world. And it suffers no censorship. Through it, I have a world and the universe as my own."

All three female defendants have expressed remorse for their crimes, been exemplary inmates, and offered their time for charity work. Yet none has been released by the California Parole Board, even though each of them was young and clearly under Manson's powerful influence at the time of their crimes. There is no question that but for their unfortunate connection with Charles Manson, none would have committed murder. It is sad, but undoubtedly true, that parole boards are political bodies that base decisions as much upon anticipated public reaction to their decisions as on a careful review of a parole applicant's prison record and statements.

In November 2014, the California Department of Corrections announced that it had received a request for a marriage license from their famous eighty-year-old prisoner. Manson's bride-to-be was Afton Elaine Burton, nicknamed “Star” a twenty-six-year old woman who had worked for Manson's release. Turns out that the few short years before Manson’s death, “Star” Burton was actually planning to secure the legal rights to his corpse — in order to display it for curious observers in a glass crypt for profit. He never did marry her OR give his consent to display his remains.

Instead of tying the knot and while stringing Star along, He was busy “making little dolls, but they were like voodoo dolls of people and he would stick needles in them, hoping to injure the live person the doll was fashioned after,” said former L.A. County prosecutor Stephen Kay who helped convict Manson in 1970. “He said his main activity was making those dolls.”


The end came for Charles Manson on Sunday, November 19th, 2017 at 8:13pm, at the age of 83.  The official cause of death was “acute cardiac arrest,” “respiratory failure” and “metastatic colon cancer.” 

Upon his death newspapers across the country seemed to have cheered over Manson’s passing. For instance, the New York Daily News published a front cover spread that read, “BURN IN HELL, Bloodthirsty cult leader Manson dies at 83.” Others followed suit with brazen titles such as “EVIL DEAD. Make room, Satan, Charles Manson is finally going to hell” – New York Post.

Four months after the death of Manson, his cremated remains were scattered along the California hillside. Friends old and were in attendance, including Family Member and longtime Manson supporter Sandy Good.


The Midnight Train Podcast is sponsored by VOUDOUX VODKA.


Ace’s Depot




Find The Midnight Train Podcast:


And wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Subscribe to our official YouTube channel:







September 22, 2020

Cannibalism is the act of consuming another individual of the same species as food. Cannibalism is a common ecological interaction in the animal kingdom and has been recorded in more than 1,500 species. Human cannibalism is well documented, both in ancient and in recent times.


So it's fairly common in the animal world but you know us...were not Wild Kingdom, we’re the fuckin midnight train...we are going straight for human cannibalism.


So without further ado...lets get into it.

The Midnight Train Podcast is sponsored by VOUDOUX VODKA.


Ace’s Depot




Find The Midnight Train Podcast:


And wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Subscribe to our official YouTube channel:


S4E11 WAVERLY HILLS SANITORIUM (Or Sanitarium… Whatever)

S4E11 WAVERLY HILLS SANITORIUM (Or Sanitarium… Whatever)

September 15, 2020

Tonight we are delving into the creepy world of the abandoned sanatorium. What better place to go ghost hunting. Most of these places were well known for the high death rates and many for their harsh treatment of patients. If you are like us you may also be wondering what the difference between a sanatorium and a sanitarium is. Well wonder no further because here it is...nothing...absolutely nothing. Sanitarium is mostly used in north America while sanatorium is an older word used in  most of the world outside of north America. We always gotta be different!









The Midnight Train Podcast is sponsored by VOUDOUX VODKA.


Ace’s Depot




Find The Midnight Train Podcast:


And wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Subscribe to our official YouTube channel:




September 8, 2020

In the first of our world tour series episodes, we start off in the one and only TEXAS! From the Goatman's Bridge to the Killing Fields, we discuss the creepy side of Texas!

The Midnight Train Podcast is sponsored by VOUDOUX VODKA.


Ace’s Depot




Find The Midnight Train Podcast:


And wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Subscribe to our official YouTube channel:


S4E9 The Black Plague

S4E9 The Black Plague

September 1, 2020

In this episode we discuss the Black Plague, aka the Black Death. Horrifying and deadly, we break down the different types of plagues, their symptoms, what it did to civilization and much more. Plus, we debut a new segment called "Mr. Moody's Conspiracy Corner"! Buckle up folks, it's going to be a bumpy ride!


The Midnight Train Podcast is sponsored by VOUDOUX VODKA.


Ace’s Depot




Find The Midnight Train Podcast:


And wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Subscribe to our official YouTube channel:


S4E8 Time Travel Pt 2 (Time Travelers)

S4E8 Time Travel Pt 2 (Time Travelers)

August 25, 2020

In the second episode of our two part, time travel, brain busting extravaganza, we examine tales of actual time travelers. Who are they? Where are they from? WHEN are they from? What do they have to offer? Why are they time traveling? Do they know where I put my fucking sunglasses? Hopefully we can answer some of these questions today!


The Midnight Train Podcast is sponsored by VOUDOUX VODKA.


Ace’s Depot




Find The Midnight Train Podcast:


And wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Subscribe to our official YouTube channel:




August 18, 2020

Due to Jeff Butchko being hospitalized from pneumonia (GET BETTER, BROTHER), we decided to drop the first episode of Moody and Jonathan's new podcast, "The Day The Music Died", where Jonathan will be discussing the life and times of some of the greatest musicians whose lives were taken far too early. Future episodes will only be available to Patreon producers. You can sign up for our patreon at to get these and more bonus content from the fellas at The Midnight Train Podcast!

S4E7 TIME TRAVEL Pt 1 (Holy Info!)

S4E7 TIME TRAVEL Pt 1 (Holy Info!)

August 12, 2020

In this episode we dive deep into TIME TRAVEL! What is it? Is it possible? We also have a special guest with us AND Isaiah sings a congratulations song to the winners of our Jeopardy challenge!

Sit back, grab a seat and let's get NERDY!!


The Midnight Train Podcast is sponsored by VOUDOUX VODKA.


Ace’s Depot




Find The Midnight Train Podcast:


And wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Subscribe to our official YouTube channel:


Play this podcast on Podbean App