When you curate a museum that’s filled with some of the scariest artifacts from terrifying paranormal cases, you learn to expect that strange things are going to happen to you. There’s really no way around it. Phantom voices in an empty room, the occasional human-shaped shadow zipping through your hallway, and the run-of-the-mill bumps in the night are all par for the course at Weird HQ. Some of our more active objects even misbehave so much that we had to start storing them in a padlocked chest which we had blessed by a priest.
But once in awhile you come into possession of an object with a particular ability which really makes you dread having any contact with it. Something with such bad mojo attached that it doesn’t just creep you out, it crawls into your head and haunts your dreams. Literally. For me, that object is THE IDOL, a cursed item that is so eerie, it causes intense nightmares for the majority of those who choose to touch it.
I’m going to give blanket warning right here and now: there are more than a handful of people that have reported having nightmares after merely viewing THE IDOL, either in person or in photos. Whether those dreams are the result of their own imaginations or the sinister background of the object itself, I’ll leave for you to decide. That said, if you read on, you will see pictures of THE IDOL unwrapped, so make sure you’ll cool with potential nightmares just in case.
On September 13, 2015, my adventuring partner (and wife) Dana and I were guests on Coast to Coast AM. We were booked to share our weird travel expertise, sending curious road warriors off to the scariest places they didn’t know they could actually visit, but it wasn’t long before the interview turned to our destination-hopping side-project, the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and the Occult. We talked about our experiments with the Dark Mirror, how we ended up with a haunted painting that flings itself from walls, and even the strange anomalies that surround our very own chunk of the actual Amityville Horror house. For most listeners, it was the first they’d heard of our paranormal museum, and it made for a fun show that earned us a few gigs at upcoming conventions. It also earned us some nightmare fuel.
Two days after our C2C show, I find an email in my inbox:
Greg and Dana,
Caught your Coast to Coast show on Sunday and heard you talking about the museum of the paranormal. I have a statue that I think you would be interesting in. I was going to send it to you but when I saw how local you were I hoped you might meet me half way instead. It would save me shipping on a heavy item.
I found the statue in the crawl space of our home several months ago and my family and I have reason to believe its is haunted. I’m ready to put it in the trash but would rather give it to someone who will keep others from using it.
If you would like to know more please email me.
In the history of good ideas, meeting someone who heard you on late-night conspiracy talk radio isn’t usually one of them, but in the interest of adventure and my own curiosity, I made plans to meet Tim in a Wal-Mart parking lot halfway between Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio.
When I met Tim, he didn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would collect haunted items. He looked like the picture perfect portrait of an all-american dad, decked out in Khaki shorts and a tshirt with a vaguely automative theme. He was tall, and looked a lot like Ted Danson. The only thing that made him stand out in a suburban Wal-Mart parking lot was the blue baseball-cap pulled tightly down over his eyes. It was the kind of flimsy disguise worn by dudes who use the back doors of massage parlors.
As he made a beeline for our terribly inconspicuous vehicle, his arms cradled a large burlap sack the way someone who hates kids might hold a baby – carefully, but with a kind of distain. As I introduced myself, he heaved the heavy bag into my chest, sighed loudly, and proclaimed, “well, Greg, he’s your problem now.”
When I asked him what I was getting myself into, Tim took a deep breath and began to recount his brief history with the object.
Six months prior to our meeting, Tim had purchased a house on the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio, moving himself, his wife, and his young son into the home. One day while running new cable through the basement of the house, Tim shimmied his way into a crawlspace and discovered a burlap sack bound tightly with bailing twine. It was caked in cobwebs, and appeared that it had been undisturbed for some time. Curious, Tim dragged the heavy bag out with him, dusted it off, and carried it upstairs to his office.
As his family watched, he cut the twine and unwrapped the object to reveal a two-foot statue of a man with long features, jet-black aside from ivory eyes and a strange triangular symbol on its forehead. The idol looked vaguely African in origin, but a thorough investigation of the object revealed no clues to its history or identity. “I don’t like it,” was the terse response from Tim’s wife. “No wonder it was hidden in the basement.” Tim shrugged, placed it on the corner of his desk, and went back to wiring his new home.
That night, Tim and his wife awoke to the cries of their son, who rushed into their room screaming about the “little man”. According to the boy, the “little man” from the statue came into his bedroom, and as he watched in horror, the creature slowly tugged the covers off of his body from the far end of his bed.
Despite the fact that the same event was repeated for the better part of a week, the couple chalked it up to a kid’s imagination getting the best of him. Until it happened to them.
Several days after Tim discovered the idol and his son was plagued by nightmares of the “little man”, he and his wife began to experience terrible dreams themselves. So terrible, that Tim refused to expound upon them.
“All I’ll say is that they were the most vivid, detailed, and horrible dreams the two of us have ever had,” he told me before quickly moving the story along.
The nightmares were enough to convince Tim that the statue was placed in his crawlspace for a reason, and he quickly rewrapped the idol in its burlap bag, tied a big knot in the twine, and stuffed it back in his basement. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be enough to appease the disturbed object.
“All hell broke loose,” Tim tim said, shaking his head.
In the weeks that followed, the family’s nightmares gradually subsided, but strange activity began to ramp up in their home. Electronics and lights would flicker on and off, strange shadows would dart through the living room, and more than once, the family would return from work to find their faucets running full blast. The final straw, Tim said, were the nights when he and his wife would hear what sounded like a group of people rummaging through their kitchen, slamming doors and throwing silverware on the counters, only to find an empty room in disarray when investigated.
“I was getting ready toss the statue in the trash, but I was always too worried about someone else finding it, so when I heard you say you collected haunted things on Coast to Coast the other night, I knew you were supposed to have it,” Tim said. “I don’t care what you do with it – put it in your museum, burn it, whatever. He’s your problem now.”
The story was sufficiently bizarre, and much of what Tim experienced seemed in line with other reports surrounding haunted items, but one thing was bothering me. I knew what his son was dreaming about, but Tim had refused to give me any details about his or his wife’s nightmares. As he was preparing to leave, I made a last ditch effort to get him to reveal the visions that convinced him something wasn’t right with the idol.
“Tim, if I’m going to research this thing, especially if it’s going to live with me, it would really help to know what you and your wife dreamed about.”
Tim breathed deeply and adjusted his baseball cap before leaning in close.
“Okay. I’m not going to tell you about my wife’s nightmares, but I’ll tell you this much: I had a dream that I held her down, put a sharp rock to her chest, and cut her open. I heard her ribs crack, felt the warmth of her blood.. I can remember the way she screamed.. everything, it was all so vivid. Then I dug out her heart with my bare hands and ate it. It wasn’t a regular dream. It was terrible..”
As his voice trailed off, I could see that Tim was visibly upset. He was shaking, and as he began to inch backwards, he looked at the burlap heap in my arms for the first time during our whole meeting.
“He’s your problem now.”
When I climbed back into the Adventuremobile, Dana was still clutching her phone, ready to dial 911 in the event that the man who heard us on the radio ended up being a homicidal maniac. Fortunately for us, I relayed, he was just a Midwestern dad who inherited a very creepy item that was now, as he continued to remind me, “our problem.”
“Either that, or he’s full of shit,” Dana scoffed.
She was absolutely right. I unwrapped the the idol from its bag to take a peek at it for myself, not realizing that it wouldn’t be very long before we both took Tim’s story very seriously.
The day after met Tim in the Wal-Mart parking lot, we were due to be chasing ghosts and lecturing about alien abductions on a haunted island in Upper Michigan. As usual, we were bringing the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult along with us, so in light of our new acquisition, I rushed home to quickly print out a museum tag for The Idol, eager to share the object with the Strange Escapes crowd at Mackinac Island.
We had an eight hour drive ahead of us, but the Adventuremobile is a trusty steed. Scion XBs are made by Toyota, which means they’re good on gas, cheap to maintain, and there’s a great chance they’ll outlive you. We’d put thousands and thousands of miles on our hatchback while hauling our museum to events across the country, and never so much as experienced a hiccup. Our trip to Mackinac Island should have been no different, but for some reason, it was the very first time we’d experienced car trouble.
Just an hour out of Weird HQ, the Adventuremobile began to sputter and stall. I pulled over, popped the hood, and checked the spark plugs. Everything seemed fine, and we continued on our way, but it wasn’t long before the car again began to lurch and jerk, this time with the radio turning off on its own. Again, I pulled over, this time to check for blown fuses. No issues to speak of. Why was the car all of a sudden breaking down? I’d just had it serviced in preparation for our trip, and everything was in tip top shape.
As I explained my frustrations to Dana, we both came to the same conclusion, craning our necks to look at the big wooden chest packed into the seat behind us. Could this really be the work of The Idol? Our conclusion was that we were, well, jumping to conclusions a bit too quickly, so with AAA on standby, we continued to our destination. A trip that should have taken eight hours ended up taking us fifteen.
When we finally unwrapped The Idol for the Strange Escapees, the reaction was a bit more extreme than we expected. Gasps from the crowd were accompanied by a whole lot of loud “hell no!’s”, and no one, save for myself and a couple brave guests, dared to handle the statue.
Plenty of guests had their own theories on the origins of the item. Demonic possession, black magic, and “total bullshit” remained popular opinions, but the one thing that everyone could agree on is that The Idol was unsettling. Everything about it, from the way its ivory eyes seemed to watch your every move, to its unnatural and elongated features, to the creepy shadow it cast when wrapped in its sack, The Idol just looked like something you didn’t want to mess with. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe everyone’s subconscious fears about the statue were just getting the best of them… after all, it’s almost like the object was made to be scary.
As the event came to a close, I wrapped The Idol back up in it’s burlap blanket and convinced myself that our earlier car troubles were just a coincidence. Little did I know that these kinds of “coincidences” were going to start happening far too often soon.
When we arrived home from the Michigan event, I immediately took the Adventuremobile to the shop to get a full workup. I described the kind of problems it was having, pointed out that the engine light had popped on for the first time, and conveniently left out the fact that we had been hauling a giant chest full of haunted objects around when we’d encountered the issue. The guys in the garage promised to get to the bottom of the problem and have us back on the road in no time. Two hours later, I got the news:
“Your Scion is fine, brother. She’s in great shape, even the air filter is good. We changed the spark plugs just in case, but we can’t find anything wrong with her.”
A week later, we were scheduled to present the museum at a festival in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. We loaded our chest into the back seat of the car and hit the road, but didn’t make it very far. Just twenty minutes out, the Adventuremobile’s electrical system went nuts and shut down. As we sat in a Denny’s parking lot waiting for AAA to rescue us, I called our good friend Jeff Waldridge, who had gotten us the gig in Kentucky, and told him that we weren’t going to make it. Since Jeff was a fellow paranormal investigator, I mentioned my sneaking suspicion that The Idol might be involved. He asked for a few images of the object and I was happy to oblige.
The next day, Jeff sends me a message letting me know that he’d passed along the images to Bloody Mary, a New Orleans voodoo priestess often featured on Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. Her first words were, “he didn’t unwrap it, did he?”
According to Mary, the statue was placed in Tim’s basement for a reason – good or bad – and the act of unwrapping it “confused” it. It didn’t know who Tim was, and worse, it doesn’t know who I am and why it’s not in its home. Her recommendation was to create an altar, make an offering of rum and tobacco, and calmly explain to The Idol where it was, who I was, and how it found its way to me.
“Tell the man to purify the spot he found The Idol,” she said. “Since it was tasked badly, the family should all take sea salt baths and scrub the floors and entryways with pure ammonia.”
An African effigy could have been put there for a thousand reasons and tasked with a thousand jobs. When disturbed it should be talked to and re-tasked. It could also house thousands of spirits but its job depends on who put it there. One would hope it was for protection but could have been otherwise. Officially, I would put in a week long ritual to cleanse and baptize it, then reestablish it properly
In many cases, a statue is buried as part of a ritual intended to curse someone. Once cast, the idol was wrapped in burlap and buried somewhere it wouldn’t be disturbed. This was a particularly important detail in the ritual, as any further fiddling with the object would result in the curse being visited upon the individual who cast it.
Close inspection of The Idol revealed a thin layer of dirt and dried mud caked in its cracks, hinting that it had been, at one time, buried. Why it ended up in Tim’s basement is another mystery altogether, but when Tim clipped the twine binding the idol, he set a chain of events into motion much like waking someone from a decades-long slumber. Considering the apparent age of the object, there’s a good chance that whoever originally cast the curse is long dead, resulting in the attached spirit being very confused and adrift.
I went ahead and took Mary’s advice, building a makeshift altar and offering a pinch of tobacco and some Sailor Jerry as I delivered the bad news.
That I night, I had an intense dream, one that I’d been having on and off since the idol made its way into our collection. I was in a crowded public space, one that felt like a bus station. As I watched the hustle and bustle of the people moving through the giant room, I became keenly aware that I was being watched.
Normally, this is the part of the dream where I wake up, but in this instance, I began to scan the crowd for the pair of eyes that were burning a hole in my head. That’s when I noticed a small man – more like an “imp”, draped in a muddy brown cloak, peering out from behind a group of people who didn’t notice him there. He stood about three feet tall, and his face was black and shiny as an ink well, save for his bright, blue eyes which were staring intensely at me.
It wasn’t until I realized that the cloak the little man was wrapped in was made of burlap that my mind put two and two together. This was a humanoid personification of The Idol, and though creature never said a word, he was clearly sending the message that he was watching me. I snapped back into consciousness in a cold sweat, waking Dana up with me.
So far, a variation of this same dream occurs every time I handle The Idol.
On Halloween night, Dana and I were setting up the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult in the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Interesting to note is that before we loaded the museum up into the Adventuremobile, we sat The Idol down, offered it some rum and tobacco, and calmly explained where we were going and why. In case you’re wondering what that might look like, it’s about as embarrassing as you might imagine, but not as embarrassing as breaking down at Denny’s. We didn’t experience a single automotive issue the entire trip.
The event at the haunted library was a blast, and towards the end of the night, a group of paranormal investigators, both amateur and grizzled veterans alike, gathered around the museum to watch me unwrap The Idol. The usual gasps and proclamations of “no thanks” filled the air, but this time, the crowd seemed far more interested in actually holding the object. Leave it to Pittsburgh.
After the customary warning that Planet Weird won’t be held liable for costs incurred from cleanings, blessings, and other forms of exorcism, I handed the unwrapped Idol to TJ, the event organizer, who had given in to peer pressure and held open his arms. For five minutes, he stood in place, turning the statue over in his hands and inspecting it, before handing it back. His face didn’t melt, doors didn’t slam, and aside from being a bit creeped out, he walked away unaffected.
A woman towards the front of the gathered crowd approached next. Her brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and her kind eyes peeked out from behind a pair of glasses. If I had to guess, I’d have pegged her as an elementary school teacher. As she carefully pulled The Idol away from my arms, she whispered that she had a “sense” about things, a trait that ran in her family, and was eager to see what kind of feelings she might get off the object, and I was just as eager to hear.
No sooner did The Idol leave my hands than the quiet woman suddenly seized up, her body becoming stiff as a board. Her face pulled tight, brow furrowed, and her eyes darted directly to mine. The only way to describe her eyes was pure rage. She began to shake back and forth, her eyes locked on me, and strange words began to sputter from her clenched jaw.
Everyone kind of freaked out.
The whole ordeal lasted just a few moments before I could grab The Idol away from her. The change was instant. Her body relaxed and her stretched frown gave way to an expression of confusion and concern. She kept apologizing, and wandered away from the table. The group shared a handful of concerned glances, and quietly moved on to the night’s investigations. I wrapped The Idol back up, placed it in our chest, and locked it.
A week later, TJ sent me an email. He’d had increasingly vivid nightmares immediately following his handling of The Idol.
On the first night, just a day after the event- I saw The Idol sitting in my dog’s crate when I went to put her away so I could go to work.
The next night – I was sitting on the couch watching tv with Katie. I believe we were watching Big Bang Theory, and images of The Idol would flash on the screen between the scene cuts. I kept asking Katie if she saw it and she thought I was nuts.
The third night – I was on an airplane, and I’m not sure where I was going to, but the seat next to me was vacant. Suddenly we hit bad turbulence and I freaked out. I look over and The Idol is next to me. This dream really struck a chord with me as I am afraid of flying but do it anyway.
The last dream happened two days after the third night – I woke up, came downstairs and it was sitting on my dining room table with a note. The note was from you, stating you wanted me to have it. I tried to contact you and Dana via your phones but your number didn’t exist and Dana’s number went to some guy. He said I had the wrong number. I went on social media and you both did not exist on there either. I pulled out my phone and saw our text msgs and tried to text you, but I got a reply from my carrier saying number not found. Not knowing what to do and worried about the affect The Idol might have on me, I mailed it back to your return address. It showed up a week later as “return to sender: no address”. I google mapped it and it just showed a road with fields. I woke up really shaken by the entire thing.
The last time The Idol appeared, I wasn’t asleep. This was last Thursday, I think. I was driving to work and it was a bit foggy on this road I take to the highway. The Idol showed up in the middle of the road! I saw it ahead of me started to slow down and it disappeared. I wasn’t tired or anything. I was so shaken that I had to pull over.
Great, now people weren’t just dreaming about The Idol after touching it, they were starting to see it outside of dreams. How could it possibly get any weirder?
A few weeks ago we were invited to cover the first hour of Coast to Coast AM by weekend host Dave Schrader, who had to fill the time after a guest dropped out at the last minute. Always more than happy to talk weird, I told Dave about the strange object we’d received after our last appearance on the show, and he suggested we chat about it on the air.
It wasn’t long before emails began to flood in, all offering their own takes on The Idol, most wondering where they might see it for themselves, and some pleading with us to destroy it. The following day, Tim Binnall, web master for the Coast to Coast AM website (and host of the excellent Binnall of America podcast), drops me a line and asks if I could send him a photo of The Idol for their blog. Since I didn’t possess any great, close images of the statue, I reluctantly agreed to snap a few and send them his way. Later that evening, a short post went up recapping the history of The Idol of Nightmares.
As expected, I once again endured the “imp in the crowd” dreams, this time with the creature baring two rows of sharp teeth at me. When I snapped awake, I grabbed my phone to check the time, only to find my inbox flooded with people who had experienced their own bad dreams – just from seeing the image of The Idol posted at Coast to Coast AM’s website.
It seems that the effect of The Idol wasn’t simply contained to those who touched it, but possibly even to those who viewed it. Now, that includes you.
We might not know where The Idol originated, who buried it, or why it ended up in the crawlspace of a suburban Ohio home, but we do know that The Idol really does have an effect on people. Whether you want to believe that its influence comes down to a subconscious response to a scary statue or a sinister history of black magic and restless spirits, is entirely up to you. After spending nearly half a year living with the Idol, attempting to uncover its history, and sharing the object with hundreds of curious visitors to the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult, I’ve certainly experienced a hell of a lot of “coincidence” surrounding the piece. The only thing that can separate coincidence from a clear pattern is time.
Those of us who research the paranormal know that it’s rarely ever “case closed” when it comes to haunted objects. Sometimes those involved in deliverance ministries (I hesitate to call them investigators since they’ve already made up their minds about so-called demonic possession) will attempt to force a happy ending by saying a prayer and tossing antiques into a river, but all that’s doing is prolonging the inevitable. Whether you bury it, stick it in an attic, or drop it off a bridge, someday someone else is going to find it and the cycle will start again, all because someone was too scared to study it.
It never ceases to amaze me that so many people hide or destroy haunted objects instead of attempting to understand why these things are acting out. Yes, these things can sometimes be scary and come with some rather unwanted baggage, and I realize that not everyone is equipped to deal with the particular brand of patience required to house objects like these, which is a big part of why Dana and I started the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult. Rather than lock these items away in a basement, we keep a close eye on them, house them somewhere safe from armchair demonologists, and most importantly, we share them with people who are seeking a paranormal experience of their own.
Every year, thousands of amateur and a handful of professional paranormal investigators stake out in haunted buildings with tumultuous pasts. Some of them were sacred sites, others were the settings for terrible murders, and some of them are just plain creepy. In every case, most of the researchers are spending their time in these locations with the good intention of getting to the bottom of why these places are haunted, not to burn them down or seal them up. Why should haunted objects be any different?
If Tim hadn’t heard us on Coast to Coast AM, The Idol might very well be buried in a landfill somewhere in Ohio, its attachments confused and wandering for eternity instead of being studied and understood. Maybe that’s why so many of these haunted objects, from Dark Mirrors to Haunted Dolls, seem to find their way to us. Whatever the case, they’re “our problem” now.
After holding The Idol of Nightmares at an event with the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult, a man claims he suffered a terrible, freak automobile accident. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Read the full witness report here.
Want to see The Idol of Nightmares in person? Want to test it, hold it, and research it yourself? Check out the upcoming dates on The Traveling Museum of the Paranormal‘s cross-country tour, where you can visit The Idol and loads of other mysterious objects from the world’s scariest paranormal cases.
Have thoughts on the origins of The Idol? Did viewing the images result in bad dreams? Have you had spooky run-ins with any of your own haunted objects? We want to hear about it! Drop us a line on Facebook, tweet us @WeirdHQ, or start a conversation in the comments below!