It Came From the River

Tonight’s episode starts with a hoax. For at least a short time in the early 1970s, the hoax caused a media frenzy to descend upon a small backroad looking for a monster that would become known as The Cole Hollow Monster. The fact the Cole Hollow Monster was a hoax has been well documented, but when you dig a little deeper into the legends of something strange lurking along the banks of the Illinois River, one has to wonder could there be something more at the heart of the story. Thanks for listening! Our musical guest for this episode is West End Junction!

Be sure to check out our special musical guest: West End Junction!

West End Junction is a folk rock duo from St. Louis, MO, comprised of Cara Ristau  and Dan Ristau. The pair met in 2014 in a south St. Louis apartment jam session through mutual friends. Unable to stay away from the music that brought them together, they created the name West End Junction in 2019.  Their music was heavily influenced by folk, Americana, and indie country. Known around St. Louis for their onstage chemistry, they can be found  playing around town at a variety of local venues. West End Junctions upcoming first full length album, Out Here in the Plains, will be released on April 9, 2023. A year in the making, the album can be found on all major streaming platforms.  

Check out their website here.

The Haunting of Dogface Bridge

Along a forgotten backroad in Northwestern Indiana is an old, rusted truss bridge that spans a tributary of the Kankakee River. The bridge is overgrown with brush and on the verge of collapse. It’s known officially as Old County Bridge 99, but locals call it a Dogface Bridge after the woman/dog hybrid creature that’s said to haunt the bridge. Join us as we dig deeper into the Haunting of Dogface Bridge!

Our Musical Guest for this episode is Bastard and the Crows with their song North South East Home. Check them out on facebook and youtube!

The Christmas Gift

Happy holidays from all of us here at the Riverlands Podcast! Join us tonight for a dark Christmas story from Mcleansboro Illinois on this episode. It’s the story of a murderer, a botched hanging, a sympathetic hangman and a very special Christmas gift. Thanks for listening!

Our Music Guest for this episode is Ms Claire Jackson with her song “You’re All I Ever Think About.” You can subscribe to her youtube channel here

Strange Tales from the Riverlands

Spooky season is upon us, so you know what that means: The Riverlands Podcast is kicking off Season 3 with our annual Halloween Show! This episode is packed with stories of high strangeness from every corner of the Riverlands told by the experiencers in their own voices. We hope you enjoy these encounters with the strange and the unknown!

Bonus: The Ancient Goodest Girl

In honor of National Dog Day, we have a bonus episode for you about humanity’s best friend. We hope you enjoy it!

For this episode, we found “A middle Archaic Dog Burial in Illinois ” by Fredrick C Hill particularly helpful.

If you’d like to check out Center for American Archeology for yourself, you can find them here.

Our musical guest for this episode was Hugh Deneal with his song Dusty, Dozer and Grandpa

Exploring The  Riverbend with Exspiravit Paranormal Society

In our Season 2 finale, we continue our 10 Questions with…Paranormal Investigators series with Exspiravit Paranormal Society from the Quad Cities area of the Riverlands. In this episode, we share tales about the strange places and dark history in the shared region between Iowa and Illinois at the confluence of the Rock River and the Mississippi. Thanks for listening! We will be back in October with more tales of dark history and high strangeness from the Riverlands and more interviews with those who investigate the paranormal in Season 3!

This episode’s musical guest was 33 on the Needle. You can find more of their music on their bandcamp page.

You can find more information about Exspiravit Paranormal Society on their Facebook page and youtube channel. They host some really cool events, so you should definitely check them out!

At the Crossroads with Hugh DeNeal

It’s time for the annual Riverlands Musical Episode! On a snowy evening in February, we had the pleasure of talking with Riverlands singer/songwriter Hugh DeNeal. Hugh is an absolute legend in the Riverlands musical community with a unique style all to himself. Hugh and his legendary southern Illinois band, the Woodbox Gang, have an electric style of bluegrass that has been described as “Insurgent Americana”, though the band preferred the term “Trashcan Americana”. Hugh’s unique storytelling style through his music make him a perfect Riverlands musical guest. Enjoy!

If you’d like to support Hugh, buy some of his music here, here or here. Check out Hugh’s current band, The People vs Hugh DeNeal here. You also support Hugh and other local musicians by going to their shows and enjoying their music live!

Here is the music featured in tonight’s episode:



Born with a Tail

Storm Blowing Slowly

Debtor’s Prison

I’ve Killed Men

Death is Coming

Panther Song

Poor Jesus

Drifter’s Ghost

10 Questions with…The Screaming Ghost Girls

Our next entry into our 10 Questions with Paranormal Investigator interview series features Michelle and Rebecca from the Screaming Ghost Girls. What started out as a ghost hunt as part of a girls weekend getaway quickly morphed into a full blown adventure for Michelle and Rebecca. They’re hilarious, they know their history and we think you’re really going to enjoy our interview with The Screaming Ghost Girls!

You can find the Screaming Ghost Girls on youtube, and facebook. Be sure to follow them on twitter (@ScreamGhostGirl) and Instagram (screaming_ghost_girls)

If you have a location you’d like the Screaming Ghost Girls to investigate you can reach them at or message them on Facebook.

10 Questions with…Parallax Paranormal

This episode is the first in our “10 Questions with…” series.  In this version of the series, we’re featuring conversations with Paranormal Investigation groups from all corners of the Riverlands.

In this episode, we sit down with Shannon, Nick, Jason and Ryan, 4 out of the 5 members of Parallax Paranormal. Parallax Paranormal utilizes technology to try to capture evidence of paranormal activity and offer their investigative services free of charge to clients.  Parallax Paranormal were really awesome to talk with and we hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did!

Check out their Facebook Page, youtube channel (seriously, go watch some of their investigations! You won’t regret it 🙂 ) and Instagram

If you’re in the Riverlands and would like Parallax Paranormal to come investigate your home or business, email the team at

Guided by the Spirit

Tonight’s episode is an origin story of sorts- a self-proclaimed hero’s descent into villainhood. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This is a story about Jim, a man who was lead by the spirits of the Riverlands on a journey that ultimately ended in terrorism and murder. Jim was a preacher who founded a survivalist Christian community deep in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks. Jim’s sermons became increasingly paranoid and foretold the decline of civilization. What began as a community of the lost and idealistic, eventually evolved into an extremist paramilitary organization that dissolved after a multi-day standoff with the U.S. government.

Thanks for listening! The music featured in this episode was Over Bored by Jesse McClary from his project “the quarantine tapes volume one”. You should check out the rest of the project and Jesse’s band: The Old Capital Square Dance Club!

This is a long, complicated story and we know we did not include every single detail about Jim and the CSA in this episode. If you’d like to know more, here are some resources to get you started. Be warned: The CSA is a dark road, so take care as you wander.

The Cult Vault’s Interview with Kerry Noble (CSA Member) entry about CSA

University of Arkansas Research Center on Terrorism article on Jim

Roots of Religious Violence in America– an essay from the book: Misunderstanding Cults

Information about the Titan Missile Explosion referenced in the episode

An excellent BBC documentary about Christian Survivalist (we used a few clips from this documentary)

Article about John Todd, “Former Witch”

State of California Department of Justice Bureau on Organized Crime report on outlaw motorcycle gangs. Discusses the involvement of the CSA with these groups.

A discussion on Robert G. Millar

A New York Times article outlining the history of White Supremacy. The CSA features heavily in the roots of this.

Article discussing the 1983 plot on Oklahoma by the CSA

New Republic Article about the CSA

University of Missouri Kansas City Law Faculty project discussing the Elohim city connection to Oklahoma

New York Times article discussing 1983 Oklahoma plot

Article discussing Elohim City

FBI history of the Oklahoma City Bombing

Kerry Noble interview and press conference discussing Jim’s arrest

A Very Riverlands Holiday Special

Happy Holidays! This year, we’re continuing The Riverlands tradition of Christmas ghost stories. In this special episode we chat with Jonathan, the city planner for Hillsboro, Illinois. Jonathan shares our interest in history and high strangeness and recently started a ghost walk for downtown Hillsboro. We talk about Jonathan’s favorite local ghost stories and Hillsboro’s revitalization over the past 10 years. Thanks for listening! We will see you in the new year!

If you’re interested in visiting Hillsboro (and we recommend you check it out!), here is the city webpage.

The music in this episode was Reliever by Leight July. Check out Leight July’s music on spotify and youtube. Don’t forget to subscribe!

The Space Penguins of Tuscumbia

In central Missouri, just east of the Lake of the Ozarks, is a town of 200 people called Tuscumbia. By all accounts, Tuscumbia is a small, quiet river town. But in some corners of internet, Tuscumbia is legendary. This is because, on a chilly  February morning in 1967, a farmer named Claude Edwards said he spotted something strange  on his way to tend to his cows, sparking a story that would become known as The Space Penguins of Tuscumbia. 

Claude Edwards
UFO Landing Site
Claude’s drawing of the creatures
Claude’s sketch of the object

A special thanks to the Miller County Historical Society for assisting us in our research! The photos used in our show notes are from their archival posts about Claude’s story.

The Historical Society’s post about the Claude’s story and additional photos can be found here.

For information about the history of Tuscumbia, check out the historical society’s page.

The music used in this episode was Solar Eclipse by Jenny Johnson. Solar Eclipse is from a solo album Jenny produced with some friends about a town in Southern IL – Makanda.  Jenny is an extremely talented a musician from Southern, Il who writes and performs original American roots songs. She’s performed on NPR, internationally, and at music  festivals. She’s a Midwesterner, a music producer, and mom of 1 totally cool baby boy. 🙂 Be sure to check out her webpage and listen to the most recent album from Miss Jenny and the Howdy Boys. You can also find more of Jenny’s music here on spotify.

A big shout out to Spencer for lending his voice to Claude! 🙂

The Riverlands Halloween Special: Part 2

Happy Halloween! We’ve got a bunch more spooky stories for you. Hope you enjoy them! Thanks for listening!

The music used in this episode was: The Ballad of Jimmy Rawls by Jeff and Teresea Davidsmeyer. You can check them out on Youtube here.

The Riverlands Halloween Special: Part 1

We’re back! We’re kicking off Season 2 with a two part series in celebration of the Halloween season! While researching stories for season 2, we came across many stories of high strangeness from across the Riverlands. We’re really excited to share these stories with you! Each story is told by those who experienced them in their own voices.

We hope you enjoy them! Happy Halloween!

A big thank you to everyone who shared their story with us!

The music used in this episode was All Alone by the Bayou Prowlers. You can find them on youtube and instagram. We really recommend that you do- they’ve got some great stuff!

Episode 10: The Coming of the Nightriders

In the Season 1 finale, we bring you part two of the story of Reelfoot Lake. What began as a series of protests against a wealthy businessman blocking local access to drain and log the lake, quickly morphed into something much darker and violent. We hope you enjoy the story of the Nightriders of Reelfoot Lake!

Music featured this episode:

The Days the Earth would Not Stand Still by Larry Holder

Additional Reading:

Reelfoot Lake and it’s dark history of night riders– Article by Tennessee Magazine

Night Riders of Reelfoot Lake– by Paul J Vanderwood (the author interviewed many of the original night riders)

Reelfoot Lake State Park– in case you want to visit

Thank you for supporting us this season! We will be back in October with some spooky local stories!

Episode 9: What’s Buried Beneath: The New Madrid Quake

In Northwest Tennessee, just across the Mississippi river from New Madrid, Missouri is a flooded cypress forest called Reelfoot lake.  Spanning 15,000 acres, this shallow, peaceful lake is a birding and fishing paradise. But despite it’s placid waters, Reelfoot Lake and the region it inhabits has a grim history starting with it’s violent creation as a result of the New Madrid Earthquake. In this first episode of a two part series, we tell the story of one of the largest earthquakes in recorded US history and how it changed the geography of the Riverlands.

If you’d like to know more about the creation of Reelfoot Lake, we found Reelfoot and the New Madrid Quake by Juanita Clifton to be particularly interesting.

For more information about the New Madrid Earthquakes check out these resources:

USGS Summary of the 1811-1812 Earthquakes

Strange Happenings During the Earthquakes from the City of New Madrid

The Great Midwest Earthquake from Smithsonian Magazine

This episode features music by Dark Fantasy Studios under a premium license.

Episode 8.5: American Spiritualism

Katherine from the Mourning Society of St. Louis returns to discuss the history of American Spiritualism and the group’s upcoming event on the topic. Spiritualism was a religious movement that became popular during the Victorian era, and centered around the belief in the existence of the human spirit beyond the grave and the ability of some to communicate with these spirits. We hope you enjoy learning about spiritualism as much as we did! Thanks for listening!

If you’re interested in learning more about the Mourning Society of St. Louis Exploring Victorian Spiritualism event, information can be found here:

Facebook Event Page

St. Louis County Page

Episode 8: Summoning Demons of the Past

In this musical episode of the Riverlands we speak to musician Stace England, a singer/song writer from Southern Illinois, about his writing process and why he chooses to tell these stories. Stace’s ability to capture a story and atmosphere into song drew us to him and his music. During our discussion, we realized we were all chasing the same stories and the same monsters. We hope you enjoy this episode! Be sure to check out more of Stace’s music on youtube or Spotify!

You can find Stace England’s music on his website, youtube and Spotify

The music featured in this episode (provided courtesy of Stace England):


Hardin County

Equal Opportunity Lynch Mob

Salt Sex Slaves

As Real as Real Can Be

Muscle and Bone

Do It Right

Liberty and the Baptists

Episode 7.5: Chasing Strangeness

Richard joins us to share his first hand accounts of high strangeness in Western Illinois. He shares stories about the Argyle Monster, Sasquatch and something….even stranger.

We hope you enjoy his stories as much as we did! Thanks for listening!

This music featured at the end of this episode was “Dead End Blues” by Mick Byrd. You can also find Mick’s music on youtube, Apple itunes and bandcamp.

Here are some of the photos Richard shared with us:

1 / 9

Episode 7: The Archivist

Dr. Michael Lorenzen joined us from Western Illinois University to discuss his research into the bigfoot phenomenon in Western Illinois.  Dr. Lorenzen emphasizes the importance of primary sources in his research and is dedicated to documenting them.  He shares his research philosophy with us, insights into good research practices and several historical accounts from Western Illinois. 

Here are some of the resources Dr. Lorenzen shared with us:

Western Illinois University Library Guide: Bigfoot in Illinois

Bigfoot Field Research Organization

The book Dr. Lorenzen mentioned on Bigfoot in Native American culture, Giants, Cannibals and Monsters, can be found here on Amazon.

Episode 6: The Ozarks UFO Messiah

Our story in this episode originates straight from out of the tent revivals of old, and ends with a pyramid built deep in the Ozark hills. This story has it all: UFOs. Nazis. Sex. Murder.  The death of a wealthy widow at the Yahweh City Commune in Phelps County, Missouri  kicked off a series of events that caused a whole scheme to unravel. A scheme of a man who promised salvation from an impeding nuclear holocaust via thousands of UFOs, if you could pay for it.  Joseph Jeffers was the self proclaimed Messiah of the Yahweh cult and founder of Yahweh City.  This is his story.

Here’s a photo of the “Temple of Yehoshua”

These are some of the sources we found particularly helpful in our research for this episode:

Cult Stirs Controversy

Wealthy Richmond Widow Influenced by Cult Leader

Minister, Wife Tried on Sex Charges

Jeffers vs The United States

Joe Jeffers and the Kingdom of Yahweh (Excellent Blog)

Charges against Two Yahweh City Sect Members Dropped

Information on the Jonesboro Church Wars

Bonus Episode: Creature from Big Muddy Documentary

Artwork courtesy of RedRoom Creative Media

In this bonus episode, we sit down with Joe Tury of RedRoom Creative Media to discuss his latest documentary, Creature from Big Muddy: An Illinois Bigfoot Legend. Creature from Big Muddy explores the legendary Big Muddy Monster that lurks around the town of Murphysboro, Illinois. The lore of the Big Muddy Monster centers around a series of alleged Sasquatch or Bigfoot sightings in and around the Murphysboro area, particularly near the Big Muddy river. Thanks for listening!

You can find more information about Creature from the Big Muddy and other RedRoom documentaries on the RedRoom Creative Media Facebook page.

More information about Creature from Big Muddy can be found here.

Watch Creature from Big Muddy: An Illinois Bigfoot Legend on Amazon Prime Video.

Episode 5: The Mourning Society of St. Louis

This episode features a discussion with Katherine from the Mourning Society of St. Louis about historical mourning, death culture and funeral customs. The Mourning Society of St. Louis is a civilian reenactment group that brings historical funerals to life as public educational events.   The group hosts a several events throughout the year and if you’re interested, you can find more information at or on social media.  We were especially excited to learn more about the Mourning Society because they are the only reenactment group of their kind, located right here in the Riverlands.  We hope you learn as much as we did!

Episode 4: Winter Ghost Stories

 In the spirit of the holidays, we thought we’d resurrect the long lost tradition of telling ghost stories during the Christmas season. In this episode, our guest, Zach, tells the story about a haunted house where he and his roommates lived during college. It’s quite an eerie tale and we hope you enjoy it!

Episode 3: The Drowned Fortress

This is the story of Fort Bellefontaine, the first US military post west of the Mississippi.  Two hundred years ago, it was the last outpost of civilization before heading into the newly purchased Louisiana territory. The fort was witness to many pivotal historic moments in the early days of the United States and was host to several famous American explorers. But, within twenty years of its establishment, the fort was abandoned.  Now, Fort Bellefontaine lies drowned beneath the Missouri River, existing only in memory. 

Here are some photos from the area near Fort Bellefontaine today:

2 / 7

Sources and Further Reading:

Information about Fort Belle Fontaine County Park:

Military History and  the alleged Hauntings:

Cantonment Belle Fontaine:

National Historic Registry:

Belle Fontaine in the National Archives:

Journal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: