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If you're anything like me, you'd love the ability to be in two places at the same time, I mean, just think about how much more you could get done in a day. You could catch up on sleep while also building your career and spending time with the people you love and even giving back to your community. Now, imagine you are able to be in two places at once, except you don't know there's another you out there at all. You have no idea what they're doing or saying or where they are.

[00:00:31]

And you especially don't know that while you're working your 9:00 to 5:00, they're deep underground somewhere conducting heinous experiments for the United States government. It's a good thing that can never happen, right? This is Supernatural, a podcast original, I'm your host, Ashleigh Flowers. Every Wednesday, I'll be taking a deep dive into a real unexplained occurrence to try and figure out the truth. You can find all episodes of Supernatural in all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify this week, we're talking about the Montauk Project, a top secret government research program that allegedly took place in Long Island during the 70s and 80s.

[00:01:33]

It seriously may be the holy grail of government conspiracy theories like there's kidnappings, whether control, manufacturing, monsters, time travel. And that is just the tip of the Montauk iceberg. We have all of that and more coming up. Stay with us. This episode is brought to you by Casper. Better Sleep starts with the right routine and the right equipment. And with Kaspar's amazing sleep products, it's never been easier to reset your rest shop the President's Day sale and enjoy up to 15 percent off your bedroom.

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Montauk is located on the eastern most tip of Long Island, a few hours outside of New York City.

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It's a small serving and fishing village at the end of the peninsula. So it's about as secluded as a beach town gets. But it's also home to some of the wildest conspiracy theories on Earth. By far, the most famous is the Montauk Project, which begins with one man, Preston Nickols.

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Most of what you're about to hear is documented in Prestons book, The Montauk Project, and based on his writing, Prestons a little scatterbrained.

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He's one of those people who always needs to be learning, creating or investigating something new, like he collects radio equipment and conducts experiments in a homemade research laboratory in his backyard. And he says he has a degree in electrical engineering with a focus in electromagnetic phenomena. In the early 70s, Prestons working as an electrical engineer for a defense contractor in Melville, Long Island.

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This is about a two hour drive from Montauk, but he's also running a special side project. According to Preston, around 1971, he receives a grant to study mental telepathy. And sure, this sounds a little strange.

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I mean, also, Preston never specifies who gave him the grant, but ultimately, he concludes that mental telepathy is one hundred percent possible.

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And not only that, he discovers that telepathic waves are remarkably similar to radio waves.

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It's a bit unclear what he means by telepathic waves, but either way, Prestons intrigued. In order to continue his research, he solicits a number of self-proclaimed psychics to act as test subjects.

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He doesn't go into detail about just what these tests are, just that he's monitoring the psychic's responses, basically everything seems to be going fine for about three years until one day he notices an alarming pattern every day at precisely the same time, the psychic's minds will just stall like they're still conscious and coherent, but they struggle, focusing and lose all psychic functions.

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Preston doesn't know what's happening, but he theorizes that a strong electromagnetic signal could be causing some sort of interference.

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And using his radio equipment, he discovers that a huge radio frequency wave appears at the exact same time the psychics report their malfunctions. The second it disappears, the psychics are back in action. So he's proved a signal is causing the interference. But of course, that's not enough. Now, Preston needs to find the source.

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Sometime in early 1974, he builds this contraption out of a TV antenna and places it on his car. Then he drives down the coast of Long Island, letting the strength of this signal guide him.

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This brings him all the way to the eastern most tip of Long Island and Montauk, but not just anywhere in Montauk.

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Apparently, Preston arrives at the Montauk Air Force station.

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And OK, listen, like so far, Preston story is a little hard to follow, much less believe. But the Montauk Air Force station is, in fact, a real place. It was built by the United States military 32 years earlier in 1942, with the purpose of defending against the German U. Boats during World War Two. And its facilities are meant to deceive architects designed roofs that looked like traditional New England cottages so enemy ships would mistake the base for just another seaside fishing village.

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They even disguised the gymnasium as a church, reportedly by adding a fake steeple. Then, in the early 60s, 14 years before Preston shows up, military engineers constructed an eighty five foot radar tower with this massive antenna.

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It was one of only 12 of its kind built during the Cold War, and its purpose was to detect Soviet aircraft. For years, it remained one of the most powerful radar towers in the world. And it's still in use in 1974, when Prestons homemade tracking device leads him right to it. According to Preston, he sees this giant antenna towering over the tree line, and he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the source of the interfering signal.

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Now, he just needs to learn what type of projects they're running and why.

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As expected, the Air Force station has top of the line security gates, cameras, patrol officers. But Preston isn't exactly a shy person, so he walks right up to some guard and just asks. He's like, hey, how are you? Any idea what that enormous radar tower is being used for? And, you know, unsurprisingly, the guards are not friendly. They mentioned something about a project being run by the Federal Aviation Administration before, kind of like just showing him away.

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And I mean, sure, the Federal Aviation Administration is a real government institution, but they're in charge of all civil aviation, meaning like commercial and private flights. Why would they be running a program on a military base? In any case, president doesn't want to cause a scene. He returns home and basically assumes he'll never have a complete answer. A full 10 years go by before he seriously thinks about it again.

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And then in 1984, Preston receives word that the base has been abandoned. One of his friends is like, well, if nobody's there now, it probably wouldn't be difficult to break in. Right. So that's exactly what Preston does. I'm not sure how he manages to break in, but it works and the place is a disaster. Windows and gates are wide open, papers are strewn everywhere, and the facilities are littered with metal scraps. It's like the Air Force or whoever was here last left in a huge rush.

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So Preston wanders around and eventually he finds himself inside a building containing a bunch of high voltage machines.

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The technology is far more advanced than anything he's ever seen before, so he doesn't know what most of it is for. But he does recognize. Some high tech radio equipment as a collector, this excites him, but Prestons not trying to steal. So instead he goes home and contacts the surplus disposal agency, which is the people in charge of keeping the records of all government equipment since all that expensive equipment is just seemingly going to waste. Preston wants to know if he can buy some and eventually his persistence pays off.

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A representative discreetly gives him the contact information for a man 40 miles away in Bayonne, New Jersey. The agent basically just says he'll know what to do. Now, Preston never mentions the man's real name, but they meet up at a secret location and the man simply hands Preston a piece of paper. And again, Preston doesn't tell us what this piece of paper says, just that it's pretty unofficial, looking like it's not branded or signed. And it doesn't mention the name of a company, a military branch or director like nothing.

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But the guys like, listen, if you show this to the groundskeeper at the base, he won't give you a problem and you can just take whatever you want, which to me is just kind of very weird and risky sounding.

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But Preston really wants the equipment, so he's willing to give it a shot. He takes a friend of his named Brian, who also happens to be one of the psychics from his study. They arrive at the Montauk Air Force station, and instead of breaking in, they find a groundskeeper and hand him the slip of paper and somehow, miraculously, it works. The caretaker takes one look at the paper and tells them to take whatever they want. But he says it's their only chance because if he sees them again, he'll kick them out.

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Preston and Brian agree. And to make the most of their time, they split up. But when they meet up again, Brian mentions that he's on edge like something about this place is giving him weird vibrations. So Preston asked Brian if he can do a psychic reading right there on the spot to see what he can pick up. And Brian agrees. But when he taps into his psychic frequencies, the results are startling. Brian starts spewing what sounds like complete nonsense, but a couple of things stand out.

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First, he claims Preston used to work as a technician on the base, but that he deserted his team after an experiment went wrong.

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And then Brian hones in on two words in particular, mind control. Coming up, Preston learns the truth about his role in the Montauk project. Hi, it's Vanessa from Pakistan.

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Complete strangers just start approaching him with bizarre new details about the past.

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And one of them shows up at his home unannounced, talking about how they used to work for Preston at the Air Force Base, which, as far as he knows, is impossible. It would mean that at some point over the last 13 years, while he was working as an engineer and conducting his telepathy research, he was somehow simultaneously living another life, one that he had no memories of. Like this just does not add up. So what does Preston decide to do?

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He goes on a camping trip in 1984. Preston takes some time off and pitches a tent on the beaches of Montauk with the intention of mingling with the locals.

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It's basically like a small scale reconnaissance mission.

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Apparently for about a week. Preston just walks up to people in Montauk like, so you ever notice anything strange? He does this on the street, on the beaches, in bars. And it must work because people tell him a lot of strange stories. Most of them are related to nature. Apparently, it once snowed in August, thunder, lightning and hailstorms occasionally appeared over town without warning on days that meteorologists predicted clear skies, herds of wild animals had been known to stampede through town, causing extensive damage.

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Preston has no idea what to make of this at the time, and he still hasn't wrapped his mind around it. A few months later, when another stranger arrives in November 1980 for a guy named Duncan, Cameron knocks on Preston's laboratory door.

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He's heard about Prestons interest in radios and is hoping Preston can help fix some audio equipment. Preston agrees. And over the course of working together, the two become fast friends. And as it turns out, Duncan is quite the adept sidekick. Now, it's unclear if Duncan knew about his psychic abilities before or if he discovers them like since working with Preston. So either president really good at teaching people to tap into paranormal frequencies or Long Island is filled with psychics.

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But either way, one day out of the blue, Preston gets this hunch. He turns to Duncan and is like, What do you say we take a field trip today? I want to see if you recognize someplace at this point you probably know where they're going, the Montauk Air Force station. But instead of trying to woo the groundskeeper, they just break in. Preston anticipates maybe showing Duncan around, possibly doing a psychic reading of the area, but instead the tables completely turn.

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It's like a switch turns on and Duncan's mind, he starts acting like Prestons tour guide, spouting facts about this building and that building. He even shows prest in the bulletin boards where staff members used to post informational flyers.

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To be very clear, Duncan has no idea how he knows any of this stuff. He just does. And eventually he reads Preston into a Preston, later described as the transmitter room. Immediately, Duncan enters a deep trance like Preston has to physically shake him into his right mind before they can leave. Needless to say, the trip terrifies both men, but not enough to stop digging. And as if the story isn't already hard enough to believe it's about to get even trickier because apparently Preston uses techniques learned from his psychic research to uncover Duncan's repressed memories immediately, it's like a floodgate has been opened.

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Duncan is inundated with memories about his own connection to the Montauk Air Force station. Apparently, Duncan remembers being a test subject for some sort of horrifying experiment held in the facility's deep below the Montauk Air Force Base, which in itself is a shock. But Preston barely registers the details because then Duncan blurts out that he's been programmed to befriend Preston in order to murder him and blow up his laboratory. And listen. I get it. I know this is all hard to accept, but stay with me.

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People have their reasons for believing this stuff. Supposedly, Duncan insists he had no conscious knowledge of the assassination plot until now. He assures Preston that he has no allegiance to whatever shadowy force sent him. Preston believes him. And together they decide to go public about these illicit experiments, the details of which are still pretty vague. But they're doing this because that way, if Preston ends up in a ditch, maybe at least a few eyebrows will be raised.

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Supposedly in July 1986, he delivers a lecture at a conference held by the United States Psychotronic Association, or the U.S. president tells the audience about the illicit experiments he believed were conducted at the Air Force base in Montauk. News of Preston's accusation quickly spread, and strangers start reaching out to him with new information, including a United States senator who tells Preston he wants to remain anonymous. The senator claims that the Montauk Air Force station was decommissioned in 1969. After 1970, no paper trail exists that can tie the U.S. government to Montauk.

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No record of federal funding, no oversight committees, nothing and depressed. And this means that the Montauk project probably began right around the time the paper trail stopped.

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Unfortunately, there's not a lot he can do with this information.

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It's not until four years later that an accident makes all the pieces fall into place.

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One day in 1990, Preston soldering an antenna on his laboratory roof. He grabs some wires to connect them and the antenna kicks into high gear or something. And there's this electrical shock that triggers a flood of memories.

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For the first time, Preston is convinced that he was a scientist who worked on the Montauk project for a full decade from 1973 to 83, to be exact.

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And listen, I know that this is sounding harder and harder to believe, but the main issue is really the timeline, right? In 1973, Preston was still an electrical engineer studying mental telepathy in his spare time for him to have worked on the Montauk project, he would have had to live in two different planes of existence at the same time. How? Well, supposedly, Preston remembers a crucial detail that makes all of this possible. He says time travel is real.

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According to Preston, the U.S. government discovered it sometime in the forties while working on a program called Project Rainbow, which he says is around the same time the government learned how to manipulate weather through a program called Project Phoenix. Supposedly, Congress disbanded both studies, but they didn't end. Preston claims both programs were taken over in 1969 by a company called Brookhaven National Laboratory. The government then decommissioned the Montauk base, and Brookhaven moved in, combining the weather and time travel programs into what we know today as the Montauk project.

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And now that they have access to one of the most powerful radar towers on Earth, they start experimenting in things like alien communication and, most importantly, mind control. Preston also recalls joining the Montauk Project in 1973.

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He never specifies what his role was, but he's clear about two things. First, many of the experiments that happened on the base crossed some serious ethical lines. And second, he was primarily involved in the mind control activities. Apparently, their experiments went so far as to target random unsuspecting people in Connecticut and upstate New York. But their primary test subject was Preston's friend, Duncan Cameron, according to Preston, researchers would strap Duncan into a chair in a room deep underground underneath the radar tower, around the perimeter of the room where countless receivers, transmitters, wires and machinery all used to alter Duncan's brainwaves through a combination of expert machinery and Duncan's psychic powers.

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Everything Duncan visualized would materialize in real life. Like if he concentrate on the idea of a teacup, eventually one would appear out of thin air. But it only remained present for as long as the machines were running. Which brings us to another memory, one that explains why Duncan had been sent to kill Preston. Apparently, by August 1983, Preston and a renegade team of researchers wanted to put an end to the Montauk project. Preston never specifies what triggered these misgivings.

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I guess he just has a change of heart. Whatever the case is, he, his colleagues and Duncan all formed a plan one day when Duncan is strapped into the chair, he whispers The time is now, and then all hell breaks loose.

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Coming up, Preston puts an end to the Montauk project, this episode is brought to you by Casper Better Sleep starts with the right routine and the right equipment.

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According to Preston, the monster is hairy and could have been as tall as 30 feet. And it begins tearing through the base, destroying everything in its path. Now, Preston and his colleagues only wanted to teach their company a lesson, but apparently when they go to turn off the main machine, the monster doesn't disappear like it should.

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Luckily, Preston saves the day he begins hacking through every wire he can find to put an end to the madness. And eventually it works. The monster disappears. In the wake of the attack, leaders of the Montauk project hunt down surviving personnel. They either wipe their memories clean or brainwash them into staying silent. In Preston's case, I guess they erase his memories and send him back in time to live a completely alternate reality where he works as an electrical engineer.

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I don't actually know because Preston doesn't ever fully explain.

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And if you think his story sounds like the lies of an attention seeking madman with a hyperactive imagination, you're not alone.

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Preston publishes his book The Montauk Project Experiments in Time in 1992, which is how his story comes to light. The book is considered fiction by essentially every expert on the planet. But here's where things get tricky. Not everyone dismisses it. For some, it brings back very real memories. Six years later, a man named Stuart Swerdlow releases another book on the Montauk project. According to Stuart, he'd repressed his own memories of a time spent at the Montauk project until recently.

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Now he remembers being a teenager living in Long Island in the early 1970s. Supposedly, he fell asleep in bed one night, and when he woke up, he was strapped to a table, naked and paralyzed. He's locked in a windowless bunker underneath the Montauk Air Force station, where the hallways echo with the screams of other young boys who'd also been kidnapped. According to Stuart, they were abducted for two reasons. First, to be a soldier in a brainwashed army of children invariably loyal to the U.S. government and second, to be used as human battery packs to power the Montauk project's illicit experiments.

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Obviously, that's as hard to believe as it gets, but Stuart isn't the only witness to step forward. Years later, a man with the alias James Bruce said he, too, had been kidnapped by the Montauk project.

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Scientist allegedly force fed him hallucinogenic drugs in a room referred to as the acid house. And many others have come forward as well, including an employee that currently works for the state park where the abandoned Montauk Air Force station sits. Of course, these testimonies don't mean that any of this stuff actually happened. But if while listening to today's episode, you thought to yourself, this all sounds a little familiar. It might be because Prestons would be assassin. Duncan Cameron also played a key role in the Philadelphia experiment, a really far fetched conspiracy that we've covered before.

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As far as anyone knows, Duncan's a completely fictional character in both stories. But what really might be triggering your own repressed memories is that the Montauk project actually inspired the creators of a little Netflix series called Stranger Things. Seriously, early drafts of the show were reportedly titled Montauk.

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The writers eventually changed the setting, moving it to the fictional town of Hawkin's, Indiana. And many more liberties were taken.

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But I mean, come on, elicit government experiments, multiple planes of reality, psychic powers, monsters and kids getting abducted as power sources. It's not hard to find the overlap.

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In fact, Hawkins National Laboratory in Stranger Things may be loosely modeled after Brookhaven National Laboratory. The company, Preston says, took charge of the Montauk Project in 1969.

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And if anything is true about Prestons account, it's Brookhaven.

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Much like the fictional Hawkins' Labs, Brookhaven is run by the United States Department of Energy and it is very real. Brookhaven was established in 1947 and its headquarters are located in Upton, Long Island, only about an hour and a half drive from Montauk. And according to the Long Island press, scientists at Brookhaven have built a two point four mile long machine called a relativistic heavy ion collision. Spider, which basically smashes particles together at almost the speed of light, apparently, it's meant to study the origins of our universe and the physical makeup of atoms.

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Stephen Hawking once referred to this type of technology as a time machine, and before it was turned on in 2000, the laboratories director was afraid that it might potentially open a black hole. He also thought it had the potential to send our planet into another dimension or even create a doomsday particle that could destroy every living thing on Earth.

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A time travel research program doesn't seem so far fetched now, does it? If you're ever in Long Island, you can see the Montauk Air Force station for yourself. The old radar tower still looms above the tree line, but don't expect to take a tour. The facilities are boarded up behind gates and signs that read do not enter closed to the public and security will arrest trespassers. Thanks for listening. I'll be back next week with another episode, you can find all episodes of Supernatural and all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify.

[00:34:35]

Spotify has all your favorite music and podcasts all in one place. They're making it easier to listen to whatever you want to hear for free on your phone, computer or smart speaker. Supernatural stars Ashley Flowers and is a Spotify original from podcast. It is executive produced by Max Cutler, Sound Design by Carrie Murphy with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Erin Larson. This episode of Supernatural was written by Connor Sampson with writing assistants by Ali Wicker and Drew Cole, fact checking by Anya barely and research by Mikki Taylor.

[00:35:12]

To hear more stories hosted by me, check out Crime Junkie and all audio Chuck Originals. Hi, it's Vanessa again. Before you go, don't forget to check out the new Parkhurst Limited series. Criminal couples from apocalyptic cult leaders to bank robbing bandits to married mafiosos. These couples give new meaning to till death do us part. Enjoy two part episodes every Monday starting February 1st. Follow criminal couples free and exclusively on Spotify.