Christmas mysteries

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas when all through the house. All the creepy little creatures were stirring, even the ghost mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas would soon bring true crime and mystery there.

The #DickSquad  were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of ghosts, ghouls and serial killers danced in their heads.

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    The mysterious death of Kevin Showalter

    On Christmas Eve 1973, 20-year-old Kevin Showalter was standing on the side of a poorly-lit street when he was hit and killed by a passing vehicle.

    The female driver of the car and Kevin were driving along Pequot Avenue in residential New London, Connecticut, when they were forced to pull over due to a flat tire. Kevin offered to change it and he was doing so when he was hit.

    He was hit at 11:11 pm and died shortly thereafter. And even though the driver of the car was there, neither her nor the neighbours in the area managed to catch the car’s licence plate, they were merely forced to watch as the car drive off into the distance. 

    A few weeks had passed by the time Kevin’s mother Lucille arrived at the police station to get his personal belongings only to found that they had been lost. Someone further told her that it was unlikely that Kevin’s case would ever be solved.

    Upset, Lucille spent years lobbying the government until in 1976 she managed to get a one-man grand jury implemented which resulted in the “most extensive investigation ever performed for a hit and run case.” The investigation revealed that the police botched the investigation, losing key pieces of evidence.

    After 5 months of grand jury hearings and 107 witnesses, the Judge declared that Kevin was struck by prominent jeweller Harvey Mallove who was also the former mayor of New London. He had told Lucille that he had driven by the crime scene at 11:12 pm, only one minute after Kevin was killed.

    Mallove also said that he saw a “green car parked at the scene and a middle-aged man talking to a young woman” but this didn’t match the story of other witnesses who said that no other cars were seen until the ambulance arrived at 11:15 pm. Criminal prosecution was not recommended for Mallove because there was no hard evidence, only circumstantial evidence. 

    Then in 1979, a man named Paul Hansen came forward and confessed to killing Kevin with is car. He said that after a night of heavy drinking he drove home and remembered feeling an impact. When he woke up the next morning, he had no recollection of the night before but heard the news and discovered his car had damage.

    By the time he’d come forward the statute of limitations was up by the time Hansen came forward, and in 2005 he committed suicide leaving a note behind that again claimed responsibility for killing Kevin. After Hansen’s death, a local paper tried to get the 1978 records unsealed only to find they had mysteriously disappeared… this is one of our Christmas mysteries that is still officially unsolved.

    The Jane Doe of Pleasant Valley Memorial Park

    On December 18, 1996, an auburn-haired woman in her late 50s to early 60s was found lying on a clear plastic sheet, next to her an 8-inch Christmas tree decorated with gold balls and red ribbons in Pleasant Valley Memorial Park (a small cemetery in Annadale, Virginia). She had suffocated from the plastic bag that was taped over her head. 

    Next to the body, there sat tape player with headphones plugged in that had a tape of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner performing their “2,000-Year-Old Man” and a green backpack.

    Police checked her pockets they found no identification, but they did find two envelopes one addressed to the cemetery and one to the coroner, both contained $50 bills and the same typed note: Deceased by my own hand… prefer no autopsy. Please order cremation, with funds provided. Thank you, Jane Doe.  

    Jane Doe had a 0.14 blood-alcohol level with brandy and Valium in her system, two empty juice boxes and a brand new roll of masking tape was found in her pockets. She also had Jeff Foxworthy “You might be a redneck” cassette and a “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

    She was found in the part of the cemetery where infants who don’t survive were typically buried, but not near any particular grave. And police were unable to identify Jane Doe through fingerprints or locate any family through missing person reports. She remains unidentified today.

    The disappearance of Patty Vaughan

    On December 25, 1996, Patty Vaughan and her estranged husband Jerry Ray (JR) Vaughan had gotten into a “volatile” argument at her Oak Park Road residence in La Vernia, Texas.

    The pair that had been married since 1985, had begun a trial separation in October 1996, and JR moved out of the family home and into an apartment in San Antonio. In December, Patty started a relationship with a former boyfriend which her husband found out about on December 13. That fateful Christmas day, they were arguing about it.

    JR told authorities that sometime between 6 and 8 pm Patty left the home alone and was never seen or heard from since. JR filed for divorce from Patty on December 26, one day after Patty was last seen. And she was reported missing by other family members.  

    Her light blue 1991 Dodge Caravan was found abandoned with a flat tire on December 26, at Look 1604 in South Bexar County. This was 5 miles from where she worked and 15 from her home. The tires had been intentionally deflated.

    Inside the vehicle, a pile of men’s work clothing was found including a red workman’s jumpsuit with the letters JM on the back. Blood was also found in the van, along with on the walls and floor of Patty’s bedroom. Someone had tried to clean both the bedroom and the van up, and the van’s shampooed carpet was still wet. DNA results came back to Patty.

    A few months after her disappearance, investigators took interest in the foundation of Natalia High School in Devine, TX, 59 miles from the family home that JR was the project manager of. And in 2006, they searched behind the gymnasium.

    Others believe that Patty was buried in the family home, a neighbour reported that police did dig on the land on the 25th and 26th of December 1996.  Patty was declared legally dead in 2005 by JR, shortly thereafter Patty’s mother sued him for wrongful death but the outcome was never shared.

    In December of 2008, investigators said they may be close to solving her case. While JR is the primary suspect, police believe that 3 unidentified family friends may have helped him dispose of her body. Today JR resides in Colorado with his three children, he maintains his innocence and says that Patty left him intentionally.

    The sketchy parts of the story, as told by Reddit (and edited by us):

    • JR had already informed the landlord of his San Antonio apartment that he would be moving out prior to Patty’s disappearance.
    • JR moved back into the family home on Christmas Day (when Patty disappeared) and filed for divorce the next day, December 26.
    • Patty’s van was found not far from her home with an intentional flat tire.
    • Blood analysis found Patty’s blood in the van, and on the walls and floor of her bedroom, bathroom and closet. Someone had attempted to clean up the blood.
    • JR agreed to take a polygraph but never showed for it. The boyfriend took one, he passed.
    • Shortly after Patty’s disappearance, JR moved to Colorado with the 3 children and stopped allowing Patty’s family to have contact with them.

    Finally, in 2012, a new DNA test showed additional female DNA in the van not related to Patty. It is suspected by some that JR had help from his sister Marilyn.

    The spontaneous combustion of Matilda Rooney

    It was Christmas 1885 on the farm of Patrick and Matilda Rooney who lived just outside of Seneca, Illinois. The elderly couple had invited their farm hand, John Larson, to spend the evening with him.

    The group enjoyed a few drinks together before John went upstairs to bed. Sometime during the night, John woke up with a coughing fit and was struggling to breathe but he eventually drifted back to sleep. He woke in the morning to find his pillow covered in soot.

    John ventured downstairs and was startled to find Patrick Rooney dead in the room and Matilda nowhere to be found. He wandered into the kitchen to find a blackened hole in the floor with a pile of ash sitting beside what looked to be the “charred remains of a human foot.”

    It would appear that Matilda Rooney was the victim of spontaneous human combustion. It is estimated that a fire of 1,400 degrees Celcius (2,500 for your Fahrenheit folks) consumed her body and left no other evidence of fire damage beyond the blackened spot. It was later determined that Patrick died of smoke inhalation. 

    It was speculated that John could have murdered Matilda, but concluded that it would be impossible for him to start a fire without damaging anything else. Many believe that excessive alcohol consumption caused Matilda to spontaneously combust, causing Patrick’s death as well. John was thought to be spared because she slept behind a closed door on the second floor.

    The Warminster ‘Thing’

    Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Warminster, UK was a treasure trove of UFO sightings. Except they weren’t so much sightings as they were mysterious and unexplained sounds.

    On Christmas morning, December 25, 1964, the residents of Warminster were visited by mysterious noises which “consisted of strong, pounding vibrations” they described as “sonic attacks.”

    A resident described being woken by the sound of something falling on her roof when she looked out the window she heard humming noises but the weather was clear and nothing had fallen on the roof.

    Other residents experience the same thing, including 30 soldiers at a nearby base camp but no one saw anything nor could they figure out where the sounds were originating from.

    The most unusual incident was experienced by Warminster resident Marjorie Bye. While she was walking to the Christmas church service, she became so overwhelmed by “vibrating noises that she was knocked to the ground and rendered unable to move.” 

    Warminster garnered international attention after a photograph of a “flying saucer” was published in newspapers. The town was overrun with UFO enthusiasts but eventually, the hype died down and there were no more UFO visits. Even still, the events of Christmas Day 1964 remain unexplained.

    The disappearance Of Nikole Betterson

    A few days before Christmas in 1997, the decomposing bodies of Jarrett and Barbara Betterson were found in their Las Vegas apartment. Barbara was clutching a Bible and a wilted red rose and no suicide note was found.

    Not that one was required because Joni Betterson, Jarrett’s mother had earlier received a handwritten note to her Georgia home from her daughter in law, that she hadn’t heard from in 20 years, that read: “By the time you get this we should be dead. Jarrett is about to go to jail and I don’t want to live without him. I’m sorry about living apart from our family. I’m sorry about so many things. We’ve had a sad and difficult life.”

    Along with the letter was a money order for $900 that the couple had managed to scrounge up for their cremation. They asked to be placed in the same urn.

    On Labour Day weekend in 1977, Jarrett Betterson lost control of the vehicle that was carrying his girlfriend Susan Klingel and their 2-year-old daughter Nikole. Susan was thrown from the vehicle and died, but neither Nikole nor Jarrett were hurt.

    Marijuana was found in the car and police wanted to charge Jarrett with vehicular manslaughter, but the investigation was sloppy and that never ended up happening.

    Not long after Jarrett had a new girlfriend, Barbara, and the couple had plans to move the family out west. They got married and assured Susan’s parents that Nikole would be taken care of before they left Dearborn, Michigan, around christmas in 1977.

    Years later when the Klingels were searching for an heir to their estate they tried to contact their granddaughter. A private detective was hired and he traced the Bettersons to Las Vegas, but while Barbara and Jarrett were found, Nikole was nowhere to be seen.

    Records were searched and there was no evidence that Nikole had even made it to Los Vegas. Sometime in 1978, Nikole ceased to assist. With the exception of the Social Security Checks from her mother’s estate that are sent to children whose parents had died, Jarrett picked those up every month at the post office. 

    Detectives searched and searched for Nikole, but nothing could be found. It appeared that she had never made it with her father and step-mother and police thought it time to talk to Jarrett.

    Eventually, the police dropped by saying: “I know what happened to your daughter, it will be easier on you if you tell us the whole story.” They had nothing, no body, no evidence but the Betterson’s didn’t know that.

    Jarrett assured the detectives that he would cooperate, but he needed time to talk to Nikole and set up a meeting. He called to reschedule, then called again. Three weeks later, the bodies were discovered by their apartment manager. Several eviction notices for nonpayment of rent were found on the front door.

    It appeared that Jarrett had shot Barbara twice in the heart with a .22 calibre rifle while she lay on a waterbed clutching a Bible and cross, then he made the bed and placed a rose on her chest before going into the adjoining bedroom, covering himself with a blanket and firing a bullet through his brain.

    Nikole Betterson has never been seen or heard from again, and while it’s possible she could have grown up with another family or elsewhere and still be living today. It is most-likely that she is dead.

    Who wrote Twas the Night Before Christmas

    Now it’s time for the biggest mystery at all, the Chris-tery of the episode if you will: who wrote the famous poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

    The poem, actually titled A Visit from Saint Nicholas was first published in the Sentinel, a newspaper in Troy, New York on December 23, 1823. The newspaper received the copy anonymously and no one actually knew who wrote it.

    In 1844, a professor named Clement Clarke Moore claimed credit for A Visit from Saint Nicholas. He said he was embarrassed to say the poem was his because he considered it unscholarly and that one of his friends had sent it in. But not everyone believes that Moore was the actual author.

    In 2000, Professor Donald Wayne Foster made an argument that the poem’s real author was Henry Livingston, Jr. who passed away in 1828. Foster argued that the poem bore a resemblance to Livingston’s other works and that the sentiment behind the poem was out of character for Moore who people described as “sour” and “unsentimental.”

    Further, Santa’s reindeer were misprinted in the original poem of “Donder” and “Blitzen” due to a printer’s error, they were supposed to read “Dunder” and “Blixem” which are the Dutch words for “thunder and lightning”. Years later when Moore was writing out copies of his poem he mistakenly wrote “Donder” and “Blitzen.” And while Moore didn’t speak Dutch, Livingston did.


    Did you love this episode? Check these other gems out:

    • Naughty Santa: Listen to our previous holiday special for some Christmas-themed horror stories about dirty ol’ Saint Nick… or at least those that pretend to be him.
    • A Ghostly Flight: Haunted Flight 401: Not exactly holiday-themed, but in December 1972, Eastern Airlines 401 crashed in the Everglades while trying to land in Miami and some ghostly passengers never did stop flying.
    • Krampus: Does Santa Claus have an evil brother? Let’s find out!
    • Bloody Christmas: In this holiday-themed episode, we’re talking about five different true crime Christmas stories.

    The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with the information for Christmas Mysteries: Christeries, if you will themselves, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:

    The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion, Nikki Kipping and Tae Haahr. “Christmas Mysteries: Christeries, if you will” was research, written, edited and produced by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks theme music, A Pink Panther, is licenced through AudioJungle.


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    Did we miss your favourite Christmas Mystery? Drop it in the comments below!