Editor's Note: This transcript was automatically transcribed, so mistakes are inevitable. You can contribute by proofreading the transcript or highlighting the mistakes. Sign up to be amongst the first contributors.
There's something about the idea of pure evil that just makes us uncomfortable when a murder occurs, we usually want some sort of rational explanation. Maybe it was revenge or mental illness or childhood trauma, even self-defense. But what happens when there is no explanation because a kind, peaceful person doesn't just turn violent out of the blue? Right. There has to be a reason.
So if there isn't a rational answer, we might have to look towards the irrational.
This is supernatural, a cast original, and 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 cast originals for free on Spotify. This week, we're looking at the murder of Allen Bono and the alleged demonic possession of his killer, Cheyenne Johnson. We'll have more about the murder and demonic possession coming up.
Stay with us. On the evening of February 16th, 1981, Brookfield, Connecticut, police responded to its first ever homicide call.
Initially, everything about the case seemed normal and a conviction should have been easy, but it wasn't as easy as they expected. The story begins with Arnie Cheyenne Johnson. Growing up, he's a good, kind kid. He plays Little League Baseball. He sings in the church choir. He works as a paper boy and even once uses all of his savings to buy his mother a used car just so she didn't have to walk to work. At 16 years old, he begins dating Debbie Glassell, a girl seven years his senior.
That means she's 23 to his 16, which is a pretty sketchy age difference. But no one seemed to be too concerned about it. And it might be because even beyond his dating life, Cheyenne is expected to grow up really fast. When his mother gets sick, he drops out of high school to support his family. He and Debbie start taking care of his younger siblings, basically stepping into the role of parents through all of it. The two of them grow really close and by all accounts, they're deeply in love.
By the time Cheyenne is 19, he and Debbie are engaged and living together in a little house just outside of town. Now, Cheyenne works at a tree service and Debbie is a groomer at a dog kennel. On the morning of February 16, 1981, Cheyenne wakes up with a little bit of a sore throat, well, supposedly he wakes up with a little bit of a sore throat because he calls in sick to work. But instead of staying home, he visits Debbie at her work.
Debbie is grooming a black poodle that day. And apparently it's this, like, really ugly dog. I don't believe in ugly dogs, but so it said. So Cheyenne's younger siblings want to see it, too. Now he brings along his 15 year old sister, Wanda, 13 year old sister Janice, and also his nine year old cousin, Mary. Debbie's boss, the kennel manager is a man named Allan Bono. Bono could not be more opposite from Cheyenne, who at 19, already lives the life of a committed married man.
Bono is about 40 single, loves to talk about himself and once spent 17 months in Australia running some kind of plantation just for fun.
He doesn't seem to mind at all that the group shows up that day to watch the black poodle get its hair snipped. In fact, he even takes the whole group out to lunch at a local bar after it's done. When they get there, though, things take a slightly weird turn. Bono orders bottles of red wine. He claims he's going to quit drinking the next weekend. So he takes that as an excuse to get really, really drunk that day.
Cheyenne and Debbie, according to their accounts, have only a little bit of wine. I mean, there are still kids around, so someone's got to be responsible. But when they get back to the kennel, Bono apparently doesn't want the party to end. He turned on the stereo, cranked it up super loud. He's very drunk and honestly at this point, kind of belligerent. Debbie is starting to worry that there's going to be trouble. Then Bono forces all of them to go upstairs to his apartment, which is right above the kennel.
Debbie and the younger girls do as he says, but for whatever reason, Shane doesn't go upstairs with them. From what the 15 year old Wanda remembers, this is the moment where Bono starts getting aggressive. He's punching his fist into his palm as if he's about to start fighting or something. Debbie urges everyone to go back downstairs to the kennels, probably just wanting everything to go back to normal, or at least to give Bono some space to calm down.
But of course, Bono doesn't want the group to leave, so he grabs the nine year old Mary's arm and refuses to let it go. Debbie rushes over and intervenes, pleading with her boss to loosen his grip. Now, at some point during all of this, Shane comes back into the room and sees what's happening. He yells at Bono until he lets Mary go and the kids run out to the car, probably scared out of their minds. The adults head outside to.
But Cheyenne and Bono are still arguing the whole way. They just stop on the front lawn screaming at each other. Wanda holds on to Cheyenne, trying to pull him away.
And Debbie is pleading with them both just to stop, let it go. And then something very strange happens. Cheyenne just sort of freezes. Wanda can't get her brother to move at all, like he's completely unresponsive, as if he's just flat out turned to stone. And there's an eerie silence in the air like they all see that Cheyenne is going through some strange, otherworldly change in his personality. And then he starts to growl like some kind of wild, rabid animal.
And at some point, Debbie and Wanda see something flash in the air, a weird light or something shiny and metallic, and then it just disappears. Bono starts punching his fist into his palm again, like fight, fight, fight. And Cheyenne just keeps staring straight ahead and blankly.
Then suddenly, Bono just falls backwards, face up and Cheyenne walks away.
When Debbie looks down, Cheyenne's pocket knife is laying in the grass beside Bono's body. Her boss has been stabbed four times in his torso, and one wound is a slash that extends from his stomach up to his heart. It's unclear who actually calls the police or what exactly happens next. But an hour later, Cheyenne Johnson is arrested. About a month later, he's indicted for first degree murder for the police. This should be a really easy conviction. Both Debbie and Wanda admit that they watched Cheyenne and Bono get into a heated argument and there was no one else standing close to Bono that could have done the stabbing besides Cheyenne.
But here's the thing. It made absolutely no sense that this kind 19 year old they all knew would have killed someone. So within a few weeks, the family hired a lawyer named Martin Menella. And at some point over the next few months, Menella makes his defense strategy available to the public. Cheyenne could not be legally held responsible for the murder because he was possessed now, considering all the circumstances. The lawyer doesn't have a bad shot with this argument.
This is a small, largely Roman Catholic community. The majority of its residents do believe in heaven and hell. And like we said before, there's never been any sort of murder in Brookfield. And again, Cheyenne was a really good kid. There was nothing in his history to suggest that he would be even capable of murder, even in the heat of the moment. To some, the only way to explain this would be to say that something had taken over his body.
But the devil, of course, the media goes crazy for this. According to Manila, he and the family are getting calls from all over the world.
Australia, Switzerland, even movie studios and TV stations are interested in adapting the story.
Cheyennes attorney even goes so far as to say that this story is worth millions.
This might all sound absolutely insane, but bear with me because as it turns out, this wasn't the first time that Debbie Glassell had seen her fiance become possessed. In fact, Shane wasn't even the only person Debbie knew that was fighting off the devil. You see, the summer prior to the murder, Debbie's brother David was acting so strangely that her family had the church investigated and the priest found not just one, but forty three demonic spirits inside of his body.
According to Debbie, Cheyenne had caught the demon from her brother and she knew exactly when and how it happened.
Coming up, we'll dive into how a demon might have taken hold of Cheyenne in the first place, high supernatural listeners, I wanted to jump in here real quick to make sure that you knew something new is coming. Something big. I produce a show called Counter Clock. And last season I teamed up with investigative journalist Delia Dombra. Together, we made 13 episodes about the unsolved murder of a woman named Denis Johnson. Because of Delia's reporting and the things she uncovered, the officials in charge of Denise's case say that it's now actively being reinvestigated, but we aren't done yet.
Starting September 10th, the first two episodes of season two are dropping, and you won't even believe the wild twists and turns that this season takes, because technically the case we're looking at is closed. But it's possible the wrong man was convicted purely due to racial bias and the killer might still be walking free gubinge season one now while you wait for season two to start on September 10th, because hint, hint, there might be some people from season one who come back to play a part, even in a completely new case, search for counter clock on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts to binge season one.
And listen to the trailer for season to season two comes out September 10th. So go now. That's counter clock, all one word and you can find it on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Now back to the story. Debbie in Cheyennes troubles really began in the summer of 1980. They'd just gotten engaged and they'd barely started house hunting when they found their dream home. It's this small cottage, yellow with green shutters. It's got enough room for the two of them and maybe even a few kids in the future. It's just outside of Brookfield where Debbie's parents live. So it's perfect, at least for the moment. Debbie's 12 year old brother David goes to the house with them on move in day.
He's really close with Debbie. So even though he's not living with her, he's probably going to come visit a lot. It's like a second home for him now when they go through the house for the first time, they find it emptied out by the previous tenants. Except for one thing, there's this waterbed mattress on the floor of the main room. It's the only thing left behind. Debbie and Shion find it somewhat hilarious, like an abandoned waterbed mattress is just such a weird, funny thing to them.
And they decide to take turns laying on it and laughing at the way it moves underneath them. They'll have to tell the landlord to take it away. But for now, there's no reason they can't have just a little bit of fun with it. They invite David to jump on and try, but he flat out refuses. He just stands there staring as if something irks him about the mattress. It seems as though he just doesn't want to roll around on something that will make him queasy.
So at least at the time, Debbie and Cheyenne don't really think too much about it, but that was their first mistake.
At some point later that day, David goes back into the room with the waterbed. The room is quiet and empty. Debbie and Cheyenne are somewhere else unpacking. So David's entirely alone, or so he thinks, because the next thing he knows, he feels something pushed him onto the water bed. When he looks up, there's an old man standing in front of him. He's wearing a torn plaid shirt and jeans. And he leans in and says to David, beware.
David is absolutely terrified. He runs out of the house and curls up into a ball on the front lawn and tries to calm himself down.
Now, Debbie heard her brother slam the front door, so she follows him outside. She crouches beside him and asked him what happened and her brother says he pushed me. So Debbie, of course, is asking, like who? Like who pushed you? And David says, the old man. But what old man Debbie thinks her brother is honestly at this point just making it up. So she offers to show him that there's nobody in the house. But David will not budge.
Finally, Debbie gives up.
She has things to do, so she leaves him outside thinking he's just getting caught up in his imagination or maybe even trying to trick her or something. But later that day, David sees the man again. Only this time he's barefoot and his skin is dark and almost burned looking. It's beginning to look like something evil. That night, they leave the house and have dinner at Debbie's mom's while they're eating. David tells the family about the old man and says they absolutely cannot move into their new house.
If they do, the man will hurt them. But still, Debbie and Cheyenne just don't believe him. Debbie's mother, on the other hand, does. You see, Judy Glassell has been reading about the supernatural recently, and she thinks that what David is describing sounds exactly like a ghost. And she's on David's side. You don't want to move into a haunted house. That's the premise of every horror movie. But Debbie and Cheyenne still aren't convinced they move into the house.
And as time goes on, David doesn't just have visions of this hypothetical ghost. He starts behaving in odd and disturbing ways even when he isn't in the new house. While in bed, he twitches and thrashes, as if trying to throw something off of his body. He screams, often swearing. Sometimes he's found pulling at his neck as if there are invisible hand choking him. And other times he squirms in pain from wounds that neither Debbie nor Judy nor Cheyenne can actually see.
It's unclear whether or not this is happening while David is actually asleep or just trying to sleep. But either way, something is taking a hold of him and it can't be explained by nightmares alone. Even worse than this, David gets violent. He spits at his grandmother, kicks her and even once tries to attack her with a knife. It gets to the point where the entire family starts taking turns sleeping during the day so that at night they can watch David and keep each other safe.
Now, Judy Glotzer no longer thinks this can be explained by a haunted house alone. She has a hunch that it's demonic possession and luckily she knows just who to call. Ed and Lorraine Warren are paranormal investigators. Ed is a demonologist and Lorraine is a clairvoyant, and they actually became famous for investigating the house that inspired the 1979 movie The Amityville Horror. Ed and Lorraine agreed to take on the Gladesville case, and they come to visit David and Judy's home and interviews him first.
But while they're speaking, Lorraine sees some sort of misty form sitting next to David that tells her that whatever they're dealing with here, it's something dark and negative.
Later on, David complains about the invisible hands gripping his neck and Lorraine notices actual red marks forming on his skin. So it's clear something is really happening to him over the next few months. Ed and Lorraine continue their investigation on multiple occasions. David makes terrifying references to murders and stabbings, though it's unclear whether he's talking about harming others or himself.
He's growling all the time and hissing, and he even speaks in strange voices and recites passages from things he couldn't have possibly memorized, like the Bible or Paradise Lost.
The Warrens advise the Glassell family that David is probably dealing with demonic possession. But for a second opinion, the battles take David to the family doctor. But he says that David is perfectly normal. He does have a minor learning disability and he does appear to be a little bit emotionally disturbed. But that's really not news to anyone. The doctor doesn't have any explanation for why he's acting this way. And it's obvious to the Glaslough that what they're dealing with is way more than just some emotional disorder.
The family starts referring to David's possessor as the beast, and they notice the same things happen when it starts to take hold. First, David will lower his head, and then when it lifts again, his expression has changed. He'll snarl and just stare blankly and sometimes even laugh. At a certain point. Everyone is convinced that they're dealing with a true case of possession. In October, Edin Lauraine call into the police station to warn them of a demonic presence in the town, and they suggest that Cheyenne in the Glaxo's inform their church about what's happening.
Their church, St. Joseph's Parish, responds by sending in several priests to examine David. What they find is astonishing. David appears to be possessed by not just one but 43 demons, all of whom he names when the priests ask him. Now, the church basically never authorizes a full exorcism. The practice is actually pretty hard to get approved before they can do anything. The church requires that David undergo a series of psychological tests to prove the possession. But Judy Glassell refuses.
She says she doesn't want anyone sticking needles into her son. But the priests are allowed to pray over David and they do. They bless the house and at some point a mass is held for the Glassell family. These steps bring the family some temporary peace, but they don't actually make the demons go away because even if the prayers get rid of one or two or even three, it seems as if more and more demons keep appearing. And Cheyenne absolutely hates watching David go through all of this.
It gets so utterly terrifying that one night fed up with whatever is taking over David's body, Cheyenne starts screaming at it. He yells out, quit picking on the child. If you want to pick on somebody, pick on me. He tells the demon that he's not afraid of it and that it should leave the boy and take him instead. And for a few days, this seems to have actually scared the demon off. David kind of goes back to normal and nothing bad happens to Cheyenne.
But one night when Cheyenne goes out for a few errands, something strange happens. He gets in his car and starts it, but he can't get it to go anywhere. The engine is racing, but the car just won't move. Then the door locks and he can't open it. He's trapped inside. When he looks through the windshield, he sees a dark figure standing in front of the hood of his car. Then the car takes off on its own, flying across the lawn and towards the woods.
Cheyenne is finally able to get it under control and stop it. But he's absolutely terrified by that point. He speaks to one of the same priests about what happened, admitting that he asked the beast to inhabit him. Instead, of course, the priest tells him that he's made a big mistake. He hands behind a crucifix, but says he'll need an exorcism to clear himself of the demon.
Now, it doesn't matter that Cheyenne is an adult, the church still needs to get the exorcism approved before they can actually perform it. So for now, the best Cheyenne can do is just wait and pray. Not long after this, Debbie starts noticing Cheyenne acting very strangely. One day they go back to their old house and he just stands in the window, staring out blankly and growling.
Once Cheyenne goes to a mass of Debbie's family and he suddenly stands up in the middle of the service, swears and then says, I want to get out of here another time, Debbie hears two voices coming out of his mouth at once and she knows one is Cheyennes, but one is something far more sinister. And this was on February 16th, 1981, the same day that Cheyenne stabbed Allen Vono. Coming up, we'll explore whether Cheyenne was actually possessed.
Now back to the story. According to Debbie, the day after Sheehan was arrested for murder, David told her that he had a vision. He had seen the Beast go into Cheyennes body and it was the beast who had committed the crime. And that is exactly what Cheyenne decided to use as his defense. At first, their lawyer is hesitant to take the case. After all, there is no precedent for this kind of argument in the U.S. Now.
There is apparently precedent for this. In England, though, in one case, an arson suspect was acquitted on account of an alleged possession and in another, an accused rapist got his sentence reduced.
So the lawyer at least agrees to talk to Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens explain that when a person is possessed, they have no control over or consciousness of their actions. This idea really sticks with the lawyer. If he can prove that Cheyenne was actually possessed, he can also prove that Cheyenne wasn't responsible for the murder of Allen Bono. The devil did it. Now, it's not clear whether or not an autopsy was ever performed or what the results were.
But his lawyer, Martin Menella, does make a few claims to back up his defense. First, he says that the victim's wounds are too deep to have been made by human hands. It's not super clear exactly what he means by this, but the implication is that the stab wounds are so deep they must have been caused by some supernatural force. Unfortunately, though, the body is cremated before Manila has a chance to use it as evidence in court.
So he tries another strategy.
If he gets the church to testify that David Glassell was possessed and passed a demon on to Cheyenne, he thinks it'll be enough for a jury to do away with a conviction. In the months that follow, the Bridgeport diocese confirms with the media that a reverend had been contacted about the case and that a group of priests investigated David for some kind of possession. But as the trial date looms, the church backtracks and claims that no formal exorcism was ever asked for, even though the warrants say they have their request on tape.
Then the church just stops commenting on the case entirely. In fact, they flat out refused to speak publicly or even to the police. The priests are ordered by the head of the parish to stay quiet and weirder. Still, some of the priests originally involved are transferred to other parishes. We don't know why exactly. The church kind of backed away all of a sudden. But remember, they weren't even willing to perform an exorcism without more psychological testing.
So it stands to reason that they also wouldn't really be willing to say under oath that David and Cheyenne were truly possessed. And unfortunately for Cheyenne, the judge refuses to hear Manala's argument at all. It's not that he doesn't believe in demonic possession necessarily, but he doesn't think it can be used as a legal defense. He calls it irrelevant, unprovable and needlessly confusing to a jury. Now, the prosecution admits that Cheyenne was under the influence of something, but they say it wasn't a demon.
They say it was alcohol. A barmaid at the cafe where they were eating testifies that Cheyenne and Bono had nearly 15 glasses of wine between the two of them and that they were sitting in the cafe for three hours. This despite the fact that Cheyenne and Debi both told police that they had very little to drink. Then a paramedic testifies that he overheard Debbie on the day of the murder saying, oh, daddy, he didn't mean to do it. You know how he gets when he's been drinking, which gives the jury proof that alcohol was somehow involved to them.
That explanation is much easier to swallow than demonic possession. In November of 1981, Cheyenne Johnson is convicted of manslaughter with a 10 to 20 year sentence. So maybe alcohol can explain what happened on February 16th. But something else was happening to David and Cheyenne ever since the summer before. And if it wasn't a demon, then what was it?
Well, in 2007, Carl Glassell Jr., which is David's brother, says it was all made up. He actually sues Ed and Lorraine Warren over their publication of a book called The Devil in Connecticut, claiming the hoax was crafted by the Warrens to bring them money and fame. He says his brother had never actually been possessed, but only suffered from illness induced hallucinations and that the press attention about the demon story had been a nightmare to live with when they were kids.
The thing is, though, Cheyenne and Debbie still say that David was possessed, they still believe the Warrens. Because here's the thing. If it wasn't a demon, if Cheyenne had been suffering from some sort of psychological trauma or even alcoholism, he showed no signs of it. Later, even in prison, he was released after just five years for being an exemplary inmate. And he and Debi are happily married to this day. It makes no sense that he would kill someone just once with no other incidents of violence in his life unless something had snapped within him.
And why couldn't that be possession? We know something was happening to David. Why couldn't the demon have moved on to Cheyenne? Even though exorcism isn't explicitly mentioned in the Bible? There is one story about possession. It's in the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus came across a man who had evil spirits inside of him. Jesus commanded the demons to leave the man's body, but the spirits begged him not to send them into the abyss. So instead, Jesus sent the demons into the bodies of a herd of pigs nearby.
And when it was complete, the pigs ran to the river and drowned. So if the Catholic Church is our expert on demons, then this story is basically the foundation for demon physics. When they leave a body, they can't just disappear. They have to transfer to something. So likewise, a demon could have jumped from David to Cheyenne.
Of course, that all depends on the assumption that demons are real in the first place. And if you've been listening to the show for a while, you'll know scientifically there's no hard proof of demonic possession, just a lot of anecdotal stories. But the sheer number of stories out there makes you wonder if there is something to it. At the time of Cheyennes trial, a Gallup poll for Christianity Today showed that 34 percent of people believe that the devil is a personal being who directs evil forces and influences people to do wrong.
Who's to say that the devil isn't behind some of the more evil acts in this world? And who's to say that if it can happen to a seemingly happy family like the Glaslough, it won't also? Happen to you? Thanks for listening.
I'll be back next week with another episode, you can find all episodes of Supernatural in all other podcast originals for free on Spotify. 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. And if you like the show, follow that podcast on Facebook and Instagram and app podcast network on Twitter.
Supernatural was created by Max Cutler and stars Ashley Flowers and is a podcast studio's original. It's executive produced by Max Cutler, Sound Design by Keri Murphy with production assistance by Ron Shapiro and Carly Madden.
This episode of Supernatural was written by Stacey Lee Niemiec with Writing Assistants by Kate Gallagher and Drew Cole. To hear more stories hosted by me, check out Chrin Junkie and all audio Chuck Originals.
Killer nurses, deranged doctors, mad scientists, don't forget to check out the new car cast original series, Medical Murders every Wednesday night, the worst the medical community has to offer men and women who took an oath to save lives, but instead use their expertise to develop more sinister specialties, follow medical murders free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.