There have been many mysterious and spooky things caught on camera since our technological sophistication has allowed us to do so, giving us eerie glimpses into the unknown. Yet there are also just as many caught in audio recordings, snippets of sound forever captured and etched into posterity for us to peruse and listen to to our liking. However, just as with video footage, these sound recordings often do little to fully bring to light all that we hear, and there are often questions left to float about these strange recordings. Here we have some audio evidence of some of the more sinister and scary events out there; the haunting recordings of disasters, murders, and voices of killers, which often serve to baffle, puzzle and indeed disgust as much as they do to inform and offer glimpses into tragedy.
Many of the eerier recordings out there have to do with tragic disasters, and perhaps one of the most well-known tragedies of modern times is the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, in which 6 United Airlines planes were hijacked for the purpose of ramming into selected targets on suicide runs. Two of these planes ended up smashing into the two towers of The World Trade Center in New York City, ultimately collapsing both in a rain of debris and killing thousands. In the wake of these horrific attacks, insurance business executive Kevin Cosgrove made a frantic call to emergency services from World Trade Center Building 2 just moments before the tower was to collapse into rubble.
In the beginning of the call, Cosgrove seems to be relatively calm considering the circumstances, merely describing what is going on around him, and sounds as if he thinks everything is going to be alright, with the operator seemingly convincing him that help is on the way. Yet by the end of the disturbing recording he is becoming increasingly distressed as the building can be audibly heard to be groaning and buckling under him. Ultimately, the tower begins to crumble as he is still on the line, and he has enough time to blurt out “Oh God! Oh!” before the line goes dead as the massive structure collapses, killing him and hundreds of others. It is a haunting clip from one of the most tragic acts of terror in history that can be heard here.
On a lesser scale but equally as tragic is the doomed Japan Airlines Flight 123. On August 12, 1985, Flight 123 departed from Haneda Airport in Tokyo bound for Osaka International Airport on a routine flight that would take only a couple of hours. The Boeing 747SR experienced difficulties soon after takeoff when a faulty repair performed on it 7 years earlier came back to haunt it in the form of an explosive decompression just a little over 12 minutes into the flight. The plane would lose all hydraulic control and most of its tail section, after which the airliner would plummet into two ridges of Mount Takamagahara, around 62 miles from Tokyo. All of the crew, as well as 505 passengers would perish in what has become one of the greatest air disasters of all time, and only 4 people would come out of it alive, who would nevertheless die of their grievous injuries later.
Before the explosion, the pilots were already well aware that something was wrong, as the cabin pressure began to fluctuate wildly and control became difficult. As the disaster played out, the pilot frantically tried to communicate with air traffic control and arrange an alternate course before deciding to take the plane down into the unknown. In the tense recording of the exchange, the pilot is obviously valiantly trying to bring the plane through, perhaps even thinking that they might not all die, but it quickly becomes clear that all hope is lost as the end inexorably draws near. It is unclear just how aware the passengers are of the gravity of the situation during this unsettling recording, or whether they realize that they are moments away from death, which makes the whole thing that much more difficult to listen to. In the end we have these moments of terror forever etched upon audiotape, and an immortal testament to the efforts of the crew in the last moments of the worst single-aircraft disaster in aviation history. You can hear the whole harrowing recording here.
One great tragedy that has not occurred outside of Japan but which seems to loom ever closer on the horizon is the prospect of a nuclear strike. While of course this has not happened since 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, the feeling of the horror of what it must feel like to await the rain of fire can be in a way experienced by listening to the incredibly creepy nuclear emergency broadcasts that were produced in the United States during the Cold War to warn civilians of imminent death and destruction. One such similar recording can be heard here, in this case for a nuclear attack from North Korea, and is extremely unsettling as it plays out a mock nuclear strike, describing the targets that have already been obliterated and the ones which are moments from it, including estimated arrivals for the blasts. It is tense listening for sure and can be heard here.
There are other mass killings where humans have played a prominent role and for which there are very disturbing recordings. In 1974, the charismatic Reverend Jim Jones, leader of the cult-like movement The Peoples Temple, brought around 1,000 of his devoted followers to a new home in the untamed wilds of the South American nation of Guyana to start a commune that was to be Jones’ perfect image of society. Called Jonestown, this was supposed to be a Utopian society in which everything would be equal among its members and where normal societal mores would not apply.
As things got more controlling and creepier within the commune, Congressman Leo Ryan, as well as several other public servants and NBC reporters, made there way to Jonestown to see what was going on with these reclusive outcasts from society. During their visit, an increasingly paranoid and aggressive Jones had them gunned down in cold blood at the Port Kaituma Airstrip, which in turn brought the FBI breathing down their necks. The cult leader then decided that the only way to avoid all of them being detained and to keep his self-built society from being dismantled by the government was for all of them to die.
Jones ordered all of his followers to the town center and told them that the only salvation they had was to commit mass suicide. He then urged and prodded his followers to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, including men, women, children, everyone. In the end, over 900 people would die in this orgy of suicide and death, and the FBI would find a tape of the whole event. In the excruciating 44-minute long recording, Jones can be heard preaching to and urging his followers with increasing urgency to drink the Kool Aid and shuck off their mortal coils as the authorities draw closer, and as women and children can be heard screaming and moaning in the background in anguish and in pain as they succumb to the poison. Near the end Jones can be heard to urge them on further, saying, “Let’s just be done with it. Let’s just be done with it.” Many people have even claimed that there can be heard at the very end a sort of demonic growl that they claim is from a supernatural source. Whether this is the case or not, over 900 people of all ages died horribly that day, and this recording captures it on tape forever in all of its unsettling finality. You can hear the graphic and disturbing Jonestown death tape here, but be warned that it is not easy listening by any means.
Perhaps just as harrowing is a recording made in the midst of the Columbine High School Massacre of 1999. On April 20, 1999, two senior students named Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold loaded up on weapons and descended upon their school, Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, with the intent to kill. The two stalked through halls and classrooms indiscriminately shooting whoever they could find, and by the time the smoke cleared 12 students and 1 teacher would be dead, as well as many others injured. The two perpetrators killed themselves rather than be captured, and it has remained one of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history.
It is hard to know exactly what was going on in those buildings during the whole horrifying ordeal, or what the victims were thinking as they cowered under school desks hoping that they would not be next as gunfire erupted through the corridors, but one 911 call made during the shootings gives us somewhat of an idea. The call in question was placed from the school’s library by a teacher named Patti Nelson right in the middle of the massacre, and she can be heard trying to answer the 911 operator’s questions, keep her cool, and stay on the line even as screaming and gun shots can be heard in the background as Harris and Klebold maraud about right outside the library doors. It is intense, frightening stuff indeed, and gives a macabre glimpse into what was going on in that school during one of the worst massacres ever. You can here the recorded call here. Again, it is emotional and grim, so listen at your own risk.
Many of these sinister recordings have to do with serial killers, and offer us a peek into the mind of madness. On December 31, 1980, serial killer Paul Michael Stephani began his reign of terror with beating a Karen Potack to within an inch of her life in Prescott, Wisconsin. Potack survived the initial attack, but suffered brain damage and debilitating injuries afterwards. The spookiest part of it all was that Stephani called the police himself to report what had happened, directing police to where the severely injured girl was. He was not finished by a long shot, and on June 3, 1981, Stephani then murdered 18-year-old Kimberly Compton, and again he called police, this time eerily saying “God damn, will you find me? I just stabbed somebody with an ice pick. I can’t stop myself. I keep killing somebody.” He called 911 again on June 11, apologizing for killing Compton in a wavering, whimpering voice, which would earn him the nickname “The Weepy-Voiced Killer.”
Stephani then killed his next victim, Kathleen Greening by ruthlessly drowning her in her own bathtub, after which he went on to murder 40-year-old Barbara Simons by stabbing after offering to give her a ride home from a bar. With Simon’s murder, Stephani once again called 911 in a weepy, hysterical voice, admitting to her killing and saying, “Please don’t talk, just listen… I’m sorry I killed that girl. I stabbed her 40 times.” Stephani’s killing spree would come to an end when an intended victim, 19-year-old Denise Williams, fought back by smashing him on the head with a bottle. Although she had been stabbed 15 times, Williams was able to get away and survive the vicious attack. Stephani himself had also been rather badly injured in the attack, and he was caught when he sought medical attention for his head. Stephani was eventually found guilty of the Simons murder and would die in prison in 1998.
What makes Stephani unique is the way he would call 911 in that frantic, quavering, manic voice to admit to what he had done and even apologize for it, as if he was just as horrified by what he had done as anyone else. It is not understood exactly why he would make these bizarre calls, or if he really did have remorse, was just very far down the rabbit hole of madness, or whether they were just all a part of what got him off, but they remain on tape for all to listen to. You can here one of the recordings here and decide for yourself.
Another killer who liked to leave calls was the sadistic murderer and rapist known as The Original Night Stalker, who raped around 50 women and killed at least 10 people between the years of 1979 and 1986 in Southern California. Not to be confused with the other Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, The Original Night Stalker was never caught and his identity remains unknown. One chilling habit the killer had was to leave spooky voice messages behind on his victims’ answering machines shortly before coming to slaughter them. One of these recordings can be heard here, and it contains the killer breathing heavily and saying “Gonna kill you..” The Original Night Stalker remains at large.
Also a killer who has never been identified or captured is the infamous Zodiac Killer, who operated in the 60s and 70s in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, and who is confirmed to have targeting a total of four men and three women, although he would claim to have killed up to 37 people. The Zodiac Killer was known for leaving cryptic messages, cryptograms and ciphers behind to taunt and baffle journalists and the police, only one of which has ever been solved. Although no one knows who the Zodiac Killer was, it is thought that we may at least know what he sounded like, as he allegedly made a call to a segment on the news program A.M. San Francisco, which was hosted by Jim Dunbar. In the call, the caller calls police, claims to be the Zodiac Killer, and demands to speak with lawyers F. Lee Bailey or Melvin Belli on air on the show. Belli then has a conversation with the killer on the air and tries to question him and try to reason with him. While of course there is no real way to know for sure if the voice we here is that of the Zodiac Killer, and has been widely denounced as a hoax, it is intriguing nevertheless to think that here we might have an actual line of communication going on with one of the most mysterious and perplexing serial killers of all time. You can see the segment here.
Just as creepy and haunting as these recordings is one made by the suspected American serial killer David Ray Parker, who was also a serial rapist and torturer of women who operated in Arizona and New Mexico. Parker and his occasional accomplices usually preyed on prostitutes, who they would either hire or intimidate by impersonating police officers, then take to his very own homemade dungeon and torture chamber set up in a soundproof truck-trailer, which he referred to as “The Toy Box.” Once there, the victim would be subjected to sadomasochistic horrific sexual abuse and torture by various methods including sex toys, surgical instruments, chains, saws, pulleys, straps, whips, clamps, electrical shock devices, spreader bars, and syringes. The gruesome Toy Box was also adorned with various diagrams of the human body and genealogical charts, as well as mirrors so that the victims could see themselves being raped and tortured, as well as video cameras for recording the grim proceedings. This makeshift torture chamber led to Parker being dubbed “The Toy Box Killer.”
Parker would then let many of them go after heavily drugging them to erase or dull their memories of the incident, and he would hold onto things such as jewelry or underwear as trophies. If a victim were to die, they were purportedly dismembered and buried. Parker was eventually undone in 1999, when an intended victim, Cynthia Vigil, was able to escape the Toy Box after being tortured there for 3 days. Although no actual bodies were ever found, Parker and his various accomplices are thought to have had upwards of 60 victims before they were caught. Nevertheless, with no hard evidence of murder Parker was convicted of kidnapping, aggravated assault, torture, and sexual assault in 2001, receiving a hefty prison sentence of around 223 years, but died of a heart attack at the age of 62 before he could really answer for or do any time for his crimes.
It is unknown just how many victims he had or how many women he may have killed during a spree that may date back to the 1950s, although no actual deaths have ever been concretely linked to him. One spooky bit of evidence that has come forward in relation to the case of the Toy Box Killer is a tape that he apparently played for victims shortly after they were initially kidnapped. The interesting thing about this tape is how rather melodramatic and cheesy it all sounds, and one would almost get the impression that this is some monologue from a poorly acted straight-to-DVD horror movie if it weren’t for the fact that this was very real, and that this was the last thing many of these victims heard before the torture, and perhaps death, started. You can here the recording here, if you dare.
Other spooky audio recordings have nothing to do with killers, but remain just as creepy nonetheless. One is the last known transmission of an unidentified female Russian cosmonaut from 1961. At the time there was a fierce space race going on between the United States and the Soviet Union, and during this time there were legions of amateur radio enthusiasts listening in on what was going on up there. One pair of Italian brothers by the names of Achille and Giovanni Judica-Cordiglia were well-known for making myriad recordings with their homemade equipment of high-profile space events such as the dog Laika on the one way Soviet Sputnik 2 voyage, among others, but perhaps their greatest and spookiest accomplishment was a recording they made with relation to the space race was one which seems to feature the voice of who would have been at the time the first female cosmonaut in space.
The recording apparently details a transmission between the unidentified woman and mission control. During the exchange, the woman seems to be aboard her spacecraft and describing what she sees around her, but things take a turn for the scary during the final moments. In these moments the increasingly panicked woman says, “Isn’t this dangerous? Talk to me! Our transmission begins now. I feel hot. I can see a flame. Am I going to crash? Yes. I feel hot, I will re-enter…,” after which the audio goes dead. It seems as if these are the last haunting words of a mysterious woman and pioneer of space just before she burnt up as her doomed craft reentered the atmosphere in a fiery end. We don’t know who she was or what exactly her purpose on the mission was, but it is an extremely haunting recording of a woman facing death in the face during an era in which space was still largely an uncharted territory that was a stranger to human presence. You can hear it and see the translation of the transcript here.
There are also recordings that feature something more of the paranormal. In the 1960s, a young German woman by the name of Anneliese Michel began to experience strange phenomena consistent with demonic possession, such as an intolerance of religious objects, speaking in tongues, hearing mysterious voices, and violent outbursts. As these incidents escalated the terrified family contacted Catholic priests to have an exorcism done, which would eventually end in the death of Michel in 1975, leading to the conviction of the priests involved for negligent homicide. The case would go on to inspire the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and I have covered the case in much more detail here at Mysterious Universe before. There remain some recordings taken from and during the exorcism, and whether you believe in demonic possession or not, they are undeniably absolutely blood curdling to listen to. You can here a portion of the very eerie recording here.
Does any of this bring these events any closer to our understanding? Are there hints buried within these soundscapes that offer new insight or understanding of what we are hearing? This seems debatable to be sure, but these pieces of our tragic history still linger on these recordings and beckon to us somehow. Here we have moments in time and from history held suspended forever in these often troubling sound recordings. We hear what these people heard, feel in a sense what they felt, and gain some form of insight into these events through these clips, but ultimately we are left to wonder just what really transpired, and struggle to put a visual reference to what we hear. It can be frustrating to say the least, but even if there are no new answers to be gleaned from such recordings and no new evidence to be obtained they still seem somewhat important, if only to serve as aural testament to some of the worst tragedies and most sinister events we know of. These tapes have saved these instances from being lost to history, and as hard as they are to listen to they have a purpose, no matter what that may be.