From DNA testing to the Dixie Mafia, we bring you new stories of true crime in American history. Join writer & host Benjamin Morris for exclusive interviews with authors from Arcadia Publishing, writing the hottest books on the most chilling stories of our country’s past.
Supernatural Lore of Southern Utah with Author Darren M. Edwards
From the fanciful and revelatory to the horrifying and sorrowful, the folklore of southern Utah hints at a complex history. Whether spiritual or spooky, home-grown legends are a window to understanding local culture. Visit Grafton, Utah’s most haunted ghost town. Explore what haunts Southern Utah University in Cedar City, the St. George Temple and Touquerville’s “murder house.” Learn about skinwalkers and the theft of Native American beliefs. Examine the numerous urban legends surrounding Route 666, “The Devil’s Highway.” Uncover the secrets of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the curse of Escalante Petrified Forest. Drawing on information from more than two hundred interviews, Darren M. Edwards investigates the tales and myths that permeate and persist in communities throughout red rock country.
Darren M. Edwards is a writer, photographer and educator living in southern Utah. When he’s not giving poetry performances, busy doing a photo session, working on writing a book or teaching a class, he enjoys cuddling with his dogs, his son or his wife—and, on some very magical days, all of them together.
Darren. Welcome to crime capsule. Thank you so much for joining us.
[00:00:05.690] - Darren
Thank you for having me.
[00:00:08.270] - Ben
We are particularly excited to have you kick off our second season, which is also our first attempt at bringing in criminals who are not normally thought of as criminals, which is to say ghosts. We're doing paranormal, and there is a lot of interest these days in paranormal, maybe more so than there ever has been, thanks to new media, technology, motion capture, all sorts of things which have arisen to sort of see what's beyond the veil. Right. And you touch on that in your book. I want to ask you, just first off, how did you come to write this volume?
[00:00:52.490] - Darren
It started when I was in grad school at Utah State. I took a class called Folklore of the Supernatural from Dr. Jeanne Banks thomas and I had never thought of approaching supernatural things from an angle other than are they factually real or not? And so seeing her approach as a folklorist where it doesn't matter if they are factually real or aren't, it's what they mean to the cultures that tell them what they mean to us as human beings that became so much more interesting to me. I'm a skeptic who really wants to believe. So it gave me a route to be intrigued by these things where I didn't have to be irritated by people running around with EMF meters and being like, that's not science. That's how I got into it.
[00:01:46.650] - Darren
And then I had the interest in it percolated for a long time until I started teaching a class about the folklore and some other things related to it, just different academic ways to approach supernatural things. And then the book came out of it.
[00:02:04.050] - Ben
Well, Fox Moulder, one of the things that I appreciated so much about your particular account was, first of all, we have a fairly unique region of the country in which to study these things, and I want very much to hear a little bit about that from you. But just as well, you also spend a great deal of time in your book really talking about the issues involved in investigating, exploring, documenting, and analyzing paranormal cases. It's a wide variety of cases, but for you, you have a sustained set of questions about what constitutes evidence and data and knowledge in this particular case, and I found that really helpful. What brought that sensibility on as you were writing?
[00:02:54.750] - Darren
I think part of it is just being a creature of habit. Part of it is, as I've thought about these issues over the years, and as I've looked at different stories, I just found things that work best in leading classroom discussions. Once I established my class, I found there were questions and lines of reasoning that led to more fruitful outcome. And so that's kind of what I stuck to, is my Holy Grail. And then some of it comes from the genre itself. Technically, my education, my master's degree is in research based creative nonfiction. And that is in itself, that kind of CNF has its own rule book, I guess you could say. Like, there's just certain ways that things are usually done that you're trained to do things and that's whether or not you're writing about birds or ghosts, you have place visits, you interview people, you look for things in historical record and you bring those all together.
[00:03:57.810] - Ben
One of the distinctions that you make in your volume and you make it very early on as you're describing your training is this kind of difference between factual truth and experiential truth. Can you unpack that particular difference for us?
[00:04:14.730] - Darren
Yeah. And there's a lot to that to be unpacked on the surface. It's just the difference between it can be the difference between something that is true for you and something that is true for everybody.
[00:04:42.030] - Darren
So I teach a lesson on post bereavement communication. I talk about it in the Lydia Night chapter, actually. I talk about that concept of post bereavement communication. And as I was preparing that lesson one night I was laying in the bed with my wife and we were talking about it. This is about six months after her grandmother had died. And then having just talked about that, she went to bed. She wakes me up in the middle of the night and says, I just heard my grandmother. And I could have gone the factual route and been like, well, I don't really believe in that stuff. And that might have spoken more to the factual truth in a way, but it would have been horrible, personal, emotional, truth wise. And so she asked me what to do, and I said, well, what do you want to say to her? And instead of this being a moment where I, as a skeptic husband, was kind of a dick, it was a beautiful moment where she got to say some last words to her mother or her grandmother and really have a beautiful experience there. And I think both of those are valid.
[00:05:47.070] - Darren
And I think it's important to distinguish between the two because we can't base things like policy on personal truth that needs to be on factual truth, but we need to respect each other's personal truths and we need to appreciate that those things are an essential part of our lives. So that's one level, and then it gets deeper as to the emotional truth of a place can be different for different people. You look at a place like Grafton that I talk about in there and you have the emotional truth of that place to the ancestors of the pioneers that established it, and then there is the emotional truth of it to the teenagers in the went and would party and hang out there. And then there's the emotional truth of the native, the indigenous peoples that were there before any of those people got there. And all of them, if you approach any of those three groups just looking at it from a different group's perspective, they get very upset because that's not their grafton right, right. And so to really understand the whole emotional truth of an area, you have to examine and bring in everybody's emotional truth and kind of look at how the pieces connect.
[00:06:55.960] - Darren
And it becomes a very complex but very beautiful map.
[00:07:00.750] - Ben
You remind me of a phrase that occurs in Nathaniel Richard's novel King Zino, which is set around the time of a very grisly axe murderer here in New Orleans. And it's a common enough phrase, but he uses it to great effect. Towns within towns. Right. I mean, you have people who live just across the street from one another, but their roots, their routines, their places of interest are so incredibly different that they actually live in two different cities despite being next door neighbors. Right. And your account of experiential truth or sort of personal truth in that respect, I think speaks to that beautifully.
[00:07:41.550] - Darren
[00:07:43.170] - Ben
So I want to ask you about another distinction you make. You have sort of three key distinctions that you lead the book off with. The first is factual versus experiential truth. The second is an interesting one. You make a subtle distinction between evidence and data, and you actually suggest, number one, that those are two different things, and number two, that there's a third term which is even more useful to describe paranormal experiences, which is memorate. So break those three down for us because they recur time and time again in your dozen or so cases in this book.
[00:08:24.270] - Darren
I don't know that I'd ever put all three of those together. Like, I would leave memorate almost in a different category. And that gets back to the emotional versus literal truth. But data and this is just the second half of my class we focus less on the full floor and more on if we were to look at supernatural things from a scientific lens, what would that look like? It looks very different than anything we're seeing on YouTube or the Scifi Channel or History Channel. We talk about what is appropriate scientific methodology, what is data? Right? Data is just a recorded detail. It doesn't become evidence until the data not only proves your theory, but rules out other theories. So somebody can say, I saw a door fling open by itself. There's evidence of a ghost. I know that's a data point. The door moved by itself. There's other things that could have caused that. Once the data also rules out that it wasn't the wind and it wasn't this and it wasn't this, then you can say it's evidence of that. So that's the difference there between data and evidence. As far as memories, memories is a term folklorists use to describe personal supernatural experiences generally supernatural experiences.
[00:09:42.370] - Darren
I have a friend who was the head of a history department at a university who believes all things supernatural and he has seen ghosts and he's had these experiences. He is so much smarter than me. Who am I to tell him that he's full of crap, right? So, I mean it's not at least yet factually, scientifically, provable. It's not reproducible but it's one person's experience and there's truth to that. Whether or not it can be reproduced and analyzed in a quantifiable way is a whole different thing. And this also ties back to post brexit and communication. The actual academic research that's been done on that shows that 180 percent of us tend to have those experiences where we hear or see or smell or recently deceased loved one and then two. It has shown as they talk to people that had them. That is a healthy part of the bereavement process. And I saw that with my wife and so at some point in my life I very well may have I may hear when my father dies I may hear his voice or see him and that's going to be a really interesting experience for me.
[00:11:00.310] - Darren
As do I say, hey, is this really my dad? Is this just my brain helping me through the grieving process? So I look forward to crossing that bridge when I get there.
[00:11:10.250] - Ben
Yeah, it's an interesting question. I'll speak very personally for a second. I lost my father a couple of years ago and I did wonder at that moment whether I would have an experience like that. I was sort of waiting for it almost and it never came. It is an interesting question as to whether we do in fact prime ourselves and prime ourselves neurologically for those moments such that we produce them out of our own expectation of them.
[00:11:44.590] - Darren
Does not the skeptic? Yeah. And that's something that both folklorist and just other scientific types of academics have noted is that they always make a distinction between thought and spontaneous supernatural experiences. If you're out somewhere not trying to have a supernatural experience and you have one that's very different than if you go out with a Ouija board and your brain is primed to have that experience. So they do. Researchers always do note when talking about these things if they are. One quick example of a story that came up in some of the post bereavement research that I did. One of the researchers had recorded a story of a gentleman who shortly after his mother died his mother appeared to him. They had a very short conversation and he thought this was wonderful. It made him feel very good. So he called his sister to tell her. She was devastated that mom appeared to him and not her. She was very upset. Oh no. But as he described her, he said, and she was in this blue dress that I had never seen before. And he described this dress in great detail. And her daughter says that we went shopping two weeks before she died, and she wanted to buy that dress.
[00:13:01.430] - Darren
And so now the daughter is able to feel like, oh, she wore that dress for me, so I can know that was for me, too. So it becomes so interesting when we start really peeling through the layers of some of these experiences.
[00:13:14.870] - Ben
Well, and that leads quite naturally to the third distinction that you make in the book. And I want to highlight this because I think it's one that you handle very carefully and one which is very useful. You say there's a difference between a skeptic and a disbeliever, and you identify as a skeptic more than a disbeliever, but you reserve the right to disbelieve when the evidence does not have explanatory power in the way that a case might require. Is that a fair assessment?
[00:13:47.210] - Darren
Yeah. No, that's absolutely fair. I am a skeptic, one who really wants to believe I think UFOs and aliens and conspiracy theories are so interesting. If I had me to just be just a true believer and believe things wholeheartedly without evidence, life would be so interesting to be able to believe that aliens build the pyramids and all those things. But my brain just doesn't function that way. But if I'm going to be truly skeptical, then that means I have to be open to, well, we don't have really any evidence that these things aren't real. Some of these things. We haven't come up with methodology to properly test them, so how can we rule them out? Right? So I just kind of stand there in the middle. I don't know whether or not anything happens after this life. We haven't found any evidence that there is something after this life, any solid, reproducible evidence, but at the same time, we haven't found anything that there isn't, really. And so without getting into some conjecture and so I'm fine standing in the middle of that. And I think that's one of the characteristics of a skeptic, at least according to Chet Ramo, who kind of really pinned down these terms of the difference between true believers and skeptics, is that skeptics are willing to live with a little bit of uncertainty.
[00:15:02.630] - Darren
We're willing to stand there in the middle and go, I don't know, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Whereas for a true believer, whichever side they're on, they need it to be firm. This is how it is. Ghosts are real, ghosts aren't real.
[00:15:16.370] - Ben
Right. And to avoid that particular kind of intellectual dogmatism, it can lead, I think, of course, more to an open mind, but also to better questions. There's this sort of interesting, annoying, but intriguing aspect of historical events, which is that by nature they are non falsifiable, nonrepeatable non reproducible. Right? And so that is true of both historical events in the past and those events which are yet to occur. It is not even possible to subject them to the same kind of analysis, scientific analysis that we would other questions, even though historical research uses scientific methods in different domains. So there's this kind of tension there which skeptics, I think, inhabit quite nicely when they're willing to say, I don't yet disbelieve. I might, but I might not.
[00:16:13.970] - Darren
I show my class. There's a couple of great documentaries that I show my students when we deal with the difference between skeptics and true believers. And one of them is Netflix. I think it's vanishing at the Cecil Motel. But you have and I always make the joke with them because you do true crimes. LAPD drops the ball a lot in true crime cases. But the LAPD and the Cecil Hotels, they did a good job. The detectives that they're interviewing, they maintain their skepticism the whole way through without giving into, as so often happens, the true belief of, okay, if this is what it is, and now we're going to ignore evidence that doesn't align with our theories, they remain skeptical through the whole thing. And then you get to the web suites'who they just bounce from truly, it has to be this. It has to be this. They almost push one guy to suicide by saying that he did it, and it just really helps, I think. Look at the differences between those mansets and how they function.
[00:17:13.830] - Ben
One more for the list. One more for the list. My backlog grows every longer. Let's talk about the area that you're studying. You are our first guest on Crime Capsule from southern Utah. From Utah at all, actually. And I'm very excited to have this territory kind of enter into our criminal consciousness around here. Do two things for us. First, tell us a little bit about the area. And maybe more importantly, can you answer the question as to why is it so haunted? You use this word, haunted, and I really like it and I want to keep using it. So why is southern Utah so very Haunty?
[00:17:57.570] - Darren
So first, what it's like? Southern Utah is hot. It's desert. It's high desert. I don't know why they don't think that people come here. We get millions of tourists each year for places like Zion National Park, Bryces Canyon, all those things. And when people come to Zion, I don't think they understand what high desert means. And so we have people every year, dozens of them, who get lost out, they're dehydrated, who go into heat stroke, all these things, because they don't understand exactly how hot it really gets. So that's the first thing that's really hot here. It's rough terrain. There are other places in Utah. When the Mormon pioneers first came here, they settled up into Salt Lake Valley, which has mountains and snow and rivers. And then Brigham Young sent settlers down to southern Utah to try, and it was called the Cotton Mission, and they were trying to grow cotton, and it didn't really work because this area is not super habitable. And I think that's both those things tie into why it's so haunted. It's the people that want the people that were here before, white people, the Indigenous people, were very spiritual people, and so it is filled with their spiritual lore, their spiritual practices, and then the people that came in and kind of overrode them in oftentimes very horrific ways themselves were very spiritual.
[00:19:34.310] - Darren
I mean. The Mormon belief system doesn't at least report these things very much now. But when you read early Mormon history. There's demonic possessions. There's spirits being cast out. There's visions all the time. And so things that we might classify as supernatural if we aren't part of that faith. Which I get it in the St. George Temple chapter. The difference between the supernatural and the Spooky. I mean. The Spooky and the holy. I think you have an area that is filled with these two very different cultures. Both of which believe in things beyond the veil and believe in things outside of what our senses can pick up. And I think that makes it right for those types of stories.
[00:20:23.230] - Ben
So I want to begin very briefly with one. I want to just ease into the warm waters of the kiddie pool before we get all the way into the deep end here. And you have a case early on in the book where you describe a curse as a sort of mysterious curse that seems to plague the Escalante Petrified Forest. And it's really interesting, Darren, because in this particular case, there was not a massacre like there was in one of your other accounts, right? There was not a Jolted lover. There was not a ballerina murdered by her boyfriend on a theater stage. There wasn't sort of like a direct crime of wrongful death, which leads to a vengeful spirit, et cetera, et cetera, or hundreds of them, as the case may be. In the Master chapter, what you have here is this Petrified Wood Forest. We have one of those in Mississippi where I'm from, and I love it. It's absolutely gorgeous, very enigmatic, very atmospheric. When you go there and just tell us what happens. Take only pictures, leave only footsteps is something that comes up in your chapter, because when people take something other than pictures, bad things start to happen.
[00:21:46.750] - Ben
But this curious thing that nobody is there's no perpetrator. There's no identifiable perpetrator. So what's going on?
[00:22:00.870] - Darren
And that's so what I wanted to find as I started that chapter, I was certain I was going to find based on some Indigenous legend or some settler story about an interaction with Indigenous people or something. And it just I talked to a ranger who had the head ranger at Escalante Petrol Forest State Park who had contacted and been in contact with two or three before him. None of them knew. They just started getting the letters one day with people returning the things, saying, hey, I took this. I probably shouldn't have. And I have had nothing but bad luck since I got it. And so they return these tiny pieces of petrified with that are so easy to slip in your pocket. And it's the array of types of people that come from places. They come from types of bad luck recorded. I mean, we get everything from little kids who their bad luck was. Their parents caught them with it and they got chastised and had to send it back, right? And in their cute little personal trait, they're cute little crying handwriting, they said, I know, and I shouldn't have. And then you have the people.
[00:23:01.570] - Darren
There was one gentleman I mentioned in the book who blames the death of his brother on the fact that he took this piece of petrified wood to give to his brother and then his brother died. It's an interesting one with no explanation. We tend to full floors, and I'm not a full floor, so I like to think the way they think. A lot folklorists look for what's the cultural truth in this story? Why are people sharing the story? And that's kind of the direction I ended up taking that chapter because there was no origin that I could find for it. And so why do we keep sharing it then, if there's no compelling origin story? And I think it's this idea of the western United States is such a nexus for guilt and regret, for the way that we expanded both in how we dealt with the indigenous people and in how we dealt with the land and how much the land has changed in the worst in a lot of ways for our progression westward. And so I think some of that is seen in the letters and in the things that people send back.
[00:24:09.930] - Ben
All right, let's just shoot from the hip here. You have a lot of discussion in your book about methods and about data collection, and we're going to get to that with Lydia Knight shortly. But here is what I want to know. Would it be possible to conduct a controlled, randomized, double blind trial of 100 individuals, each of whom took a rock, a pebble, a chunk from Escalante, and then to measure across those 100 individuals what kind of misfortune befell them? Right? I mean, that would be the scientific approach. That's what Dana Scully would do when Fox Moulder would come to her and say, there's a curse in the woods. What are we going to do about this, Darren? How are we going to investigate this?
[00:25:04.810] - Darren
I think it absolutely could. There was a part of me that was tempted for the book to do that, to take one myself and just see if anything happens.
[00:25:11.330] - Ben
No, not you. Don't do it. You don't do it.
[00:25:13.590] - Darren
Let somebody else do it. I can't do that. I can't do that just because I grew up by national parks, and I know you don't do that. But my students, at the end of the school year, they have to conduct a scientific experiment about something supernatural. And a bunch of them have done things about like walking under a ladder being bad luck or black cats being bad luck. And they have come up with some of the most innovative, cool ways to measure luck. And I think that's what if scientists were going to do that? I think they absolutely could. But they have to define what they mean by luck. They then have to come up with a metric to measure how are they going to measure that? And then very unbiased subject selection. I think it would be fascinating. I want to read it. I want them to publish it in Journal of National Sciences and yeah, let's do that. Get somebody on it.
[00:26:01.570] - Ben
All right. We will sick our finest historians and analysts on the question and report back what was really lovely about that particular chapter. I thought curses or non curses or sort of general spookiness aside, you have this meditation at the very end, which is that this forest has been around much longer than humans have. And if you think about it, we truly are the ones who are the ghosts inhabiting it just for a very short period of time coming and going. And it reminded me of I'm a big Josh Ritter fan, singer songwriter, and he's got this great song called Ground Don't Want Me, and it's about sort of a Civil War survivor, veteran of civil war, who survives, and all his buddies died, and he's the one left wandering the fields of the Earth without them, and he's the ghost. I really thought that you had this beautiful take on what is temporality, really. If we're going to really take a look at this and zoom in where we're supposed to and zoom out where we're supposed to, it invites those questions. So I really appreciated your meditating on that.
[00:27:11.810] - Darren
Well, thank you. Thank you for that.
[00:27:14.270] - Ben
Let's talk about Ms. Knight. She is one of the stars of your book, and if that's okay to say so I think that's okay to say.
[00:27:25.260] - Darren
Yeah, I'm not.
[00:27:26.800] - Ben
No disrespect to Miss night. Okay. I'm grateful to hear you say that. I feel absolved. She's an interesting one, and I want to single her case out because it does draw together some of these considerations that you have about investigation and about data together. So first of all, just tell us a little bit about who she was and how she came to be buried in such a prominent way. I have some questions for you about evidence sourcing, because you do a really good job of bringing in multiple different kinds of data in order to assess the legends and the lore sort of surrounding her. But just for our listeners who might be unaware of some of the history of the Mormon Church in that area or kind of the expansion that you described. Who was Lydia Knight and why do we care about her now?
[00:28:19.430] - Darren
Well, within the Mormon culture and history, she recently I'm trying to remember what my interviewee said. I think it was like maybe 20 years ago, picked up a sense of fame as people started exploring the narrative and the journals of people. So when the Mormon Church started back east, as they were slowly moving west, their main situation back east was Kirlin, Ohio. And they built a temple there and they had a big community and that's when Lydia and I joined them. Her first husband had been abusive. She got away from him, went to Navu. Her parents gave her her inheritance to help her do that. She gets there day one and they say, hey, Joseph Smith, the prophet, to start this church, he's in jail, we need bail money to get them out. And she just hands over her inheritance, which means she has nothing. So she gets invited to stay with say it wrong now because I don't have my notes right. For me, I think it was the prophet's brother. And she stays with him for a while. Through that course, she meets her future husband. And they have what's called the love story of this was in Navu.
[00:29:32.470] - Darren
So they have the love story of Navu, Illinois, because they wanted to be together, but she was technically still married to this abusive guy. And so they couldn't get married, so they wanted to. And so they stayed like that until word got to her that her first husband had died and then Joseph Smith was able to marry them. It was the first marriage that Joseph had performed. And yeah, it's actually a really beautiful love story. And Lydia herself went through so much and all of those early Mormon pioneers went through so much with everything they dealt with back east. The governor boggs execution order where it's basically legal to hunt Mormons and things like that, to the difficulties of traversing the west in wagons and things like that, the harsh state winters quarters, all these things. And she did it and did it by herself. Her husband, her new husband died before the trek west. So I think that's why she took on, or has recently taken on this kind of celebrity within the LDS culture, is that she was a very strong, independent determination.
[00:30:45.900] - Ben
[00:30:46.850] - Darren
The association with the prophet Joseph Smith, that kind of celebrity by association. And then she was buried. So she made it west to Utah with her kids. She remarried a couple of times here. She ended up moving down to southern Utah towards the end of her life, was fairly poor, didn't know a ton of people in the community. And when she was buried, I can't remember. If they were going to give her a small headstone or if they did. And then her son Jesse, who was a big mining kind of tycoon, found that out and was like, no, she's getting the biggest headstone in the place. And so she has this very prominent kind of geometric based headstone with a big orb on top that makes it notable. And that's where those stories tend to start sticking out as we find the biggest thing in the cemetery and say it's spooky.
[00:31:42.190] - Ben
Yeah, there are overtones. I mean, I know that the Mormon Church does not beatify in the same way that, of course, the Roman Catholic Church does, but there were almost some overtones of kind of like St. Lydia a little bit. I mean, she kind of almost earned the designation in that sense. And people do make these pilgrimages to her grave. But what's interesting is I think yeah, go ahead. You write that the pilgrimages, they're not exactly for Venerations sake, therefore a very different reason.
[00:32:19.630] - Darren
And I think there are groups of people within the LDS faith who do make pilgrimages to visit her grave. I don't think they would ever call them that, but I think that's what they are. And then there's the people that visit her not knowing her history at all. It's just that there is this full floor of here's, this big notable grave that has this inscription on it, not dead, but sleeping, which seems kind of spooky. And so it gets the story that if you go there at night and she's not dead, she's just sleeping, she'll wake up and you can talk to her or she'll appear to you. And so there's all these different versions of different rituals, if you want to call them that. You circle the grave this many times, you say her name this many times, and she'll appear to you or you'll hear her, and that's kind of the local lore.
[00:33:12.250] - Ben
So you went and you made your own non pilgrimage pilgrimage, and you were in search of a pretty good photograph of the headstone at night, and you got one. But tell us about your experience there, and then tell us about your friend Cindy's experience there, because the two of you all had very different kinds of experiences at this site.
[00:33:38.050] - Darren
So my experience I had gone and one of the things that I do from my training in writing, research based creative nonfiction, is I do something called a place visit. It's a type of research, but when I'm doing a place visit, as soon as I'm done, I sit down and I write for ten minutes just about what it was like that's when I was in escalante. That's when this feeling and this idea of where the ghosts hit me was as I was sitting in escalante writing for those last ten minutes. I think those are oftentimes some of the most profound writing moments we get as writers of creative nonfiction. But so I sat after I had visited Lydia's grave and I was riding and it just dawned on me. I had had this experience where I tripped over a new grave plot, stumbled a little bit. I didn't fall the way down but I stumbled a little bit and I heard something off in the distance at the same time and I was like if I had come out looking for a ghost story that would have been my ghost story, right? And it would be a great ghost story if I would tell the way I would tell it, everything would work.
[00:34:42.030] - Darren
But I wasn't there. In that mindset gets back to what we had said about the experiences that are sought after versus not right. I had been thinking about is my exposure going to be correct? Is the lighting of the moon going to work? And then we have Cindy's experience who is such a wonderful, wonderful, sweet woman. I sat down to interview Cindy and we had about a two hour interview in the first 20 minutes of it dealt with Lydia and I. That was all I was planning on interviewing her about. But then she tells me her story of her and she was in her thirty s or so working at the hospital. Her and some coworkers decide they'd never actually done the Lydia Knight Challenge but they've heard about it since they were in high school. So they decided to get some equipment and go do this. She gets called into work so she's not able to go on the adventure. Her friend and her friend's mom go. They say nothing happens. She's like, well, I have a connection, these types of things. I would love to hear the recording. She goes over to her friend's house, listens to the recording and she says clear as day, she hears when they say, Lydia, are you there?
[00:35:54.650] - Darren
Clear as day I hear, yes, I am here. And then she played it for the friend and the friend's mom who were there that night and didn't hear anything. And they said on the tape, clearest day, I am here. So she has this very interesting experience that then got us talking about. I said, Why are you you said that you wanted to hear because you've had experiences with these things. Tell me about your experiences with these things. And that got us the other hour and a half. The interview is about all of her post briefing communications that she's had throughout her life.
[00:36:34.170] - Ben
Did you get to hear this particular recording?
[00:36:39.870] - Darren
I tried. I tried getting in contact with her friend who never got back to me. She said that her friend still had it and had it in a box somewhere in her garage because she's afraid to go near it, which I think is great. I would have loved to have got to go near this bookie box and open it up and listen to the tape, but I wasn't able to get access to it.
[00:37:00.330] - Ben
So this raises an interesting question, isn't it? Because you describe in your account that there are layers of access to the numinous, right? And there's sort of a person can have a direct experience of the numinous, like, say, your wife and her grandmother, but you also have the very common in fact, the most common classification of numerous experience is the foaf. Please tell me, is that pronounced foaf? I really want it to be pronounced FoF. The friend of a friend.
[00:37:34.210] - Darren
I pronounce it Fauf. Yeah, I've heard it pronounced faux. It's a fun way to say it. So, yeah. Friend of a friend.
[00:37:41.430] - Ben
Yeah. So as I was reading, I was thinking, how many layers away from the actual recording do we get such that it is a spooky tale, but somewhere in a box in an attic, allegedly, is the hard evidence. Right. And so how close can we get to that? Now? Ostensibly, and it's interesting because you're describing your sort of your position as a skeptic, and yet I'm also wondering, it's like, is the evidence in that box, will it ever come to light or is there kind of a shroud of mystery surrounding that such that we're not ever supposed to know? Because that would actually, in fact, ruin the story. You have cases like that in your book where people have actually admitted no, I just made this up.
[00:38:28.890] - Darren
Yes. I think the shroud of mystery definitely helps build the intrigue of the story and helps it get passed on. As far as recordings, there's plenty of examples of EMF recordings where the people showed it to people and they listened to, like well, I guess you could maybe hear that there's. Oh, what's her name? Mary Roach, in her book Spook has a great chapter on that where she talks about the science behind EMF recordings and the things that they could be. But again, I think it's the fact that we want to believe those things. What do you hear in the silence? You hear what you want to hear sometimes, and that can actually be stretched beyond supernatural things. If you've ever known somebody who truly believes somebody had romantic feelings for them and you're going, where are you getting that? Are you hearing something or seeing something we're not seeing? That person doesn't have feelings for you. We tend to our own subconscious biases slip in. We tend believe what we want to believe. Confirmation bias kicks in and that happens. So I think those stories are often most powerful when the evidence, quote unquote, doesn't come to light.
[00:39:48.690] - Darren
And the same thing with, I'm on a bunch of Facebook and internet groups for supernatural things and I get excited when everybody says, I caught this video, I'm going to post it and I'm super excited. And then they post it. And I get so disappointed because I'm like, it's just a piece of lint in front of the camera. I know that, but I was so excited for just a second because I wanted to see a ghost. But I do think when you look at the things that we understand of the world compared to what we understood 100 years ago, and as technology advances, every once in a while, there's that revolutionary technology that hits and all of sudden A, we have microscopes and we can see things that we didn't know were there. Maybe someday we'll hit that point where all of a sudden we can go to the spot and we can get Lidia to talk to us every time, and she's just hanging out there, and she can tell us why she's hanging out there.
[00:40:40.770] - Ben
It is interesting you use this term a little while ago, which is the Lidia Knight challenge, right? It's the ice bucket challenge. You mentioned other challenges in the area in your book. There's the challenge of the murder ballerina in the theater and all sorts of them. They're kind of all over your case region.
[00:41:06.090] - Ben
I wanted to ask you, Darren, we are at a kind of turning point. If you zoom the lens back a little bit, everybody in the United States is walking around with an exceptionally powerful computer in their pocket, which can record all sorts of video and photographic images and audio recordings and so forth. And new media and digital technology have enabled more opportunities to record strange incidents than ever before. And as someone who has studied these cases fairly closely, I wanted to ask you, you being the person who has studied these cases fairly closely, I am not a paranormal investigator, but I wanted to ask you, does that kind of increased number of eyes in the sky floating around if there are 330,000,000 Americans and half of those have smartphones? Right? I mean, what potential does that hold for these kind of investigations? And how do we combat against the sort of sincere, genuine attempts to understand something that we don't understand versus the fakery? Right? Like the manufacturers kind of like, oh, I'm going to just titillate the crap out of my Facebook group. Pardon my French.
[00:42:26.010] - Darren
You're okay? I think there's two parts to that. And if my brain didn't just die on me, I'll remember what they were. The second part that I want to get to while I try to remember the first part deals with UFOs and the recent declassification stuff. Oh, the first part is, for the longest time, the rule of thumb in academia was and this goes back to French Revolution times, that as technology and science advanced, all supernatural beliefs, all religious beliefs would go to the wayside because we would outgrow those things. But what we found with recent polling is all the way up to now, people believe in them just as much. And it doesn't matter their race, their religion, their social class, their political leaning. We are evenly spread in this belief for these things. So technology has, rather than destroying our belief in the supernatural, it's just changed the way we perceive it now. There's urban legends about haunted phones and getting ghost phone calls. There's urban legends about apps on phones. Now that I just find it also fascinating. But as far as the ability of technology to capture this stuff, you make a great point.
[00:43:44.950] - Darren
There are billions of us walking around with high desk cameras in our pockets. We should be capturing stuff. When the US. Government recently it was in 2020, I think, declassified their UFO files. Right. There were two reactions to it. There was the people that said it's proof that aliens exist, and there are people that said, of course they have files on unidentified flying objects. Just because we've captured and can prove there are things out there that we don't know does not mean it's aliens. And so just because there's a billion of us out there getting videos of things we can't explain does not mean they're what we always thought they were, ghosts. Right. But it does give us a better place to start from and trying to figure out what they are.
[00:44:33.630] - Ben
There's a very elegant summation of the fact that unidentified flying objects have been well, they remain unidentified, don't they? That's kind of the beauty of it. Right. We know more about UFOs than ever before. Precisely. That they are still unidentified. And I think that's a step for the federal government to recognize, at least publicly in that respect, that, yeah, we don't know any more than you guys do. I like to think of that as healthy. I mean, my father was in the Navy, and if I see a Navy pilot tracking an object moving at startling velocity with unexplainable vectors on a camera, and I watched that video, and Navy pilot doesn't know what's going on, and he's willing to say that on the record, I'm siding with the Navy pilot yet we just don't know what is it. Right.
[00:45:25.450] - Darren
Yeah. No, I agree. And I think that's a beautiful place to be at. Again, it's this place of uncertainty where you say there's something, I don't know what it is. And our tendency as human beings is to let that confirmation bias slip in and say, well, this is what I believe, and this is what aligns my belief. So it's X, Y, or Z. But if we can get past that to the place where we say it's something, let's take a closer look, and maybe it is aliens or ghosts or whatever, and that would be fascinating to me. I don't think we're going to get there until we're willing to stand in that discomfort of that not knowing place.
[00:46:00.570] - Ben
You have a lovely observation in the Lydia Night chapter with which we will close here, which is the question, can we cherish the experience and examine it at the same time. Speaking of paranormal encounters and I really do believe the answer is yes. And even though you do not come to a conclusion about whether Lydia Knight is speaking to us from beyond the grave, it sounds to me that your answer is also yes. That we can examine and cherish and experience simultaneously.
[00:46:37.950] - Darren
Yes, I agree, absolutely. I think you said that very well. I use my wife post bereavement communication experience as an example and I have gotten her permission to talk about this with people. But if someone asks me, did your wife hear her grandmother? Yeah, absolutely. Does that mean that her grandmother's spirit was talking to her? I don't know. But I know that she heard the voice. Right? I know that. I mentioned the work done by Gerald Callahan in the Lydia Night chapter. He's an immunologist, very scientific guy. He acknowledges, I have seen my dead wife. He says what that means, I don't know is it a trick of my imagination. But I believe that especially with things like post bereavement communication where they're a positive, powerful experience or any kind of spiritual experience I have friends who are in I've lived in Utah my whole life. I have a whole bunch of LDS friends and family who have had super spiritual experiences in a religious setting. That man I'm not going to knock that for them. That's beautiful and powerful.
[00:47:59.760] - Darren
And if they say they saw her or felt something I believe they saw her or felt something. It doesn't mean that I'm going to see her or feel the same thing.