Karla Ferguson and Mitch Smith have long suspected that something is lurking behind their kitchen walls, so they’ve finally called in an exterminator to get to the bottom of the matter. But when the pest control pro slowly peels back the plaster, no one can believe what they’re seeing. And the disturbing discovery within is enough to make practically anyone’s skin crawl.
Before the awful truth was revealed, though, Ferguson had long noticed some strange goings-on in the couple’s new home. For a start, her cat would bizarrely gaze at the ceiling for hours. And then she heard it – a grating sound coming from behind the wall. Without seeing the source for herself, Ferguson could only imagine what was in there.
So, after calling in an expert who ultimately said that they couldn’t help her, the homeowner contacted an exterminator. But even this professional couldn’t have prepared for what he’d find behind the young family’s kitchen walls. It was the largest of its kind that he had ever seen, for sure.
Yes, Ferguson and Smith had been sharing their Huntly, New Zealand, home with something terrifying. But, of course, the couple had no idea of this when they took up residence in late 2019. And along with their daughter, Allari, two dogs and five cats, the pair settled into the new abode.
At first, things seemed to be normal for Ferguson, Smith and their clan. Not long into their stay in the house, though, one of their cats began behaving differently. Weirdly enough, the feline would watch the ceiling – apparently focused closely on something that no one else could see.
The nearby wall was a little out of the ordinary, too, as it felt warm from the outside. And although the spot did sit near Ferguson’s kitchen oven, that appliance wouldn’t have been on all day – meaning the heat was clearly coming from a different source.
Eventually, Ferguson cottoned on to what her cat was seeing. She was clued in, too, by an odd rasping sound that emanated from behind the walls of her new home. And while it’s normal to hear some unexplained creaks and noises in a house, this was definitely far beyond your average din.
It seemed, then, that there was something behind the wall – rats, perhaps. Plus, of course, Ferguson had her cat to contend with, as the animal had been staring at the ceiling for a good month now. Gradually, though, a strange sight appeared near the light in her kitchen.
Initially, as Ferguson told The New Zealand Herald in February 2020, bees seemed to be swarming around. For that reason, the mom called in a beekeeper to help her and Smith fix the problem. When the expert arrived, however, they informed the couple that the home didn’t actually host those particular insects at all.
Yes, Ferguson hadn’t actually seen bees but another creature entirely. Ultimately, then, she called in an exterminator named Robbie Stapleton, who was better equipped to handle the issue. And, alarmingly, even the pro was taken aback at what he finally found.
Of course, Ferguson and Smith aren’t the only folks to have ever found something shocking hiding behind the walls of their otherwise peaceful home. And another gruesome discovery dates all the way back to the 17th century. At that time, the county of Lancashire in England experienced a wave of fear of the supernatural, and this culminated in a gruesome series of court cases known as the Pendle Witch Trials.
In the Pendle trials, 12 people were accused of slaying ten others with their witchcraft. All but one of these men and women ended up being sent to court, and only a single individual managed to escape the gallows. But the story didn’t end there, as Pendle’s violent past went on to become a major draw for history buffs and those interested in the dark arts.
And when engineers dug not far from a reservoir in the area in 2011, they found something unexpected. The team then called in archaeologists to inspect the structure hidden beneath a grassy mound, with the experts subsequently confirming that the building was a home from the same era as the Pendle trials.
In fact, the house may even have been a meeting place for the supposed witches. This theory was further corroborated by the spine-chilling object found in its walls – a sight that would later be branded the equivalent of finding “Tutankhamun’s tomb” for those with an interest in this disturbing chapter of British history.
Tucked into the rumored coven’s walls was the mummified body of a cat. Worse still, the feline had likely been buried alive. And historian Simon Entwistle explained why the animal could have been there, saying to the Daily Mail, “Whoever consigned this cat to such a horrible fate was clearly seeking protection from evil spirits.”
But it’s even worse when the terrifying thing behind the wall is alive. And Amber and Ben Sessions experienced just such a nightmare scenario when they moved into their Rexburg, Idaho, home in 2009. They purchased their five-bedroom abode for under $180,000, which they knew was a great price – but, sadly, it turned out to be too good to be true.
You see, immediately after the Sessions moved into the house, they noticed something shocking in the yard. Everywhere they looked, snakes were slithering around their property. But the reptiles weren’t content to stay outside. Appallingly, Amber would later claim that her family could hear them moving around in the walls, too.
In 2011 Amber explained all to ABC News, saying, “After we moved in, it was really horrible. There were snakes in the walls. We could hear them, and then our water tasted like how they smell.” And yet she and her family tried to stick it out – for a whopping three months – until she became pregnant.
The situation had become so frightening at this point that Amber feared she’d miscarry her baby. She added to ABC News, “One day, we caught 43 snakes in total, and that was it. The next morning, I almost stepped on one in our house. And I had enough… I don’t know how we stayed there as long as we did.”
Sadly, the Sessions had to file for bankruptcy to get out of the house, as they had originally signed paperwork acknowledging that they were aware of rumors concerning local snakes. The couple refuted this, however, and said that they had agreed to buy the property upon being assured that the reptile-centric stories weren’t true.
Regardless, Rob Cavallaro, a wildlife biologist from the state’s Department of Fish and Game, explained that the house’s location may have been an unfortunate choice. Apparently, the abode was likely built atop an area where a huge number of snakes would descend for the winter to hibernate together.
But that’s not all, as sometimes homeowners’ behind-the-wall discoveries are more than just creepy – they’re downright sinister. And in 2013 one contractor in Poughkeepsie, New York, made a particularly gruesome discovery while cleaning out a house. The property had been left vacant after its former owner, 82-year-old James Nichols, had passed away.
As the contractor worked, he found a false wall in the basement of Nichols’ home. Then, behind this, he found a container with a bag inside. And the curious worker unwrapped a bedsheet that lay within – only to find a human skeleton that had a chunk missing from its skull and its hands bound.
A medical examiner subsequently established the person’s cause of death as blunt force trauma – evident, perhaps, from the broken skull. Then investigators used dental records to identify who had been murdered and hidden in Nichols’ house. And for some, it may have been clear to whom the skeleton had once belonged.
Back on December 21, 1985, Nichols had called the police to report that his wife, Joann, had gone missing after she had failed to show up for a hair appointment. Nearly three decades on, though, it appeared that he may have known exactly what had happened to her – as it was Joann’s remains that were concealed behind the false wall.
Ferguson and Smith thankfully didn’t make such a tragic discovery. But their problem was still disturbing them, and so they enlisted a beekeeper for assistance. Then, once the expert had made it to the couple’s home, they identified the type of creature that had been bugging the couple.
Ferguson told The New Zealand Herald that, as the beekeeper claimed, she and Smith actually had wasps in their walls. So, she changed course and called in Stapleton, who arrived on the scene quickly. And whether they wanted to hear or not, the couple found out more about the pests in their home.
Stapleton first discovered that Ferguson and Smith had wasps of all ages living in their kitchen. Yes, larvae lived behind the facade, as did winged insects that were just about ready to hatch and emerge into the Huntly home. And it appeared that the exterminator had been called just in time, too.
Ferguson later revealed, “As [Stapleton] was pulling [the insects] out of the wall, there were wasps trying to get out of their little cocoon to make their way into the world. It was absolutely insane. He said, ‘You were about to have an even bigger problem.’ We were lucky to get him when we did.”
Then, once Stapleton had found the root of the problem, he got to work. He started by spraying the wasps through the wall to remove them from Ferguson and Smith’s home. And disturbingly, the insects began to swarm him as he misted them – although fortunately neither he nor any of the people or animals in the home were stung.
After that, Stapleton decided to leave the pesticides in place overnight. Then, when he returned, he, Ferguson and Smith could finally see what had been lurking behind the walls. But while the couple now knew that there had been wasps in their home, they may have been alarmed to discover just how many had moved in.
Stapleton revealed that as many as 7,000 wasps had taken up residence in the Huntly house. Interestingly, the insects had built a nest inside a wall cavity in the couple’s kitchen – a process that had likely started six months to a year before. And going by the size of the nest, it’s easy to see why it took that long.
The massive structure measured in at just over 43 inches long, and it took up the entire depth of the 4-inch cavity behind the wall. Stapleton emphasized the sheer vastness of the insects’ home, saying to The New Zealand Herald, “It’s definitely a large wasp nest. It’s the biggest I have ever seen… [and] being in a wall in their kitchen made it a unique find.”
Yet while most homeowners would be appalled to learn that they had so many wasps around them, Ferguson looked at the situation slightly differently. In February 2020 she told Radio New Zealand, “I probably should feel, like, disgusted or devastated [that] my kitchen’s been ripped apart. But I was just way more fascinated than anything… It was disgusting, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time I couldn’t stop looking at it.”
And it made sense why that particular type of wasp would take up residence in the home. Stapleton explained the insects’ behavior to The New Zealand Herald, revealing, “European wasps themselves do like to eat what people eat. They do like to nest in eaves and woodpiles and haystacks.”
On top of that, Stapleton said that European wasps preferred to nest inside of something – like a wall. Paper wasps, on the other hand, don’t mind dwelling out in the open. And it appeared that the critters in the Huntly house had found their way in through a tiny gap on the exterior of the building.
But Stapleton hadn’t only found a massive German wasp nest in Ferguson and Smith’s home. There was also a slew of abandoned paper wasp nests, and these told the exterminator that there had been a battle of sorts over the prized location – with the European wasps ultimately prevailing.
And perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, as although German wasps are slightly smaller in size than paper wasps, they tend to be more hostile. That combative nature can spell trouble for humans, too, as wasps will sting a victim multiple times and release pheromones that call others of their kind to the scene.
And, of course, wasps may hover around humans when they think there’s food – exactly why you see them when picnicking outdoors. But even with all this knowledge, it’s hard to prevent a wasp nest from growing between the walls of your home. The best way to get rid of an unwanted insect infestation, Stapleton said to The New Zealand Herald, is to call a professional.
And that’s precisely what Ferguson and Smith did to make their home safe for their family again. Still, while getting rid of the wasps was undoubtedly a relief, Ferguson did tell Radio New Zealand that she appreciated the insects’ handiwork. She said, “It’s beautiful. It’s crazy to think that they can do that in such a short amount of time. I thought it was awesome to watch.”
But if the prospect of seeing thousands of wasps in your kitchen doesn’t make you break a sweat, then how about a fearsome predator in your basement? Yes, that nightmarish scenario is exactly what greeted two guys in Florida in 2019. Thankfully for the duo, though, they knew someone who could help.
As the two men approached the beast in front of them, they knew they were in a dangerous situation. The predator was huge, measuring up at 16 feet long and tipping the scales at around 165 pounds – making it of a size rarely seen before. And, even more terrifyingly, it appeared that the intruder was hiding something in the shadows.
The beast wasn’t the type of house guest to be typically found in this part of the world, either. The pair who had discovered the interloper knew, then, that they would need expert help in removing it. But after a specialist came to the location, he, too, may have been taken back. Even with his professional experience, he had rarely seen anything quite like this before.
What’s more, the predator in question is not just deadly to humans; it’s also a recognized threat to local wildlife. Members of its species have been known to devour such creatures as possums, rabbits, bobcats and deer, for example. And, alarmingly, a critter this size has the ability to tackle prey larger than even that. On one occasion, another of its kind was spotted feasting on a 7-foot-long alligator.
The two men first encountered this lethal specimen in July 2019 beneath a home on an island in Florida’s Everglades. And as they weren’t best-equipped to deal with the intruder, they ultimately decided to call in local conservationist Ron Bergeron, whose work has earned him the moniker “Alligator Ron.” It should be known, though, that the discovery had nothing to do with that particular type of reptile.
This may come as a surprise, as the Everglades is known for its gators. Located in the south of Florida, the unique national park — the largest of its kind in the U.S. — is easily accessible from the busy urban sprawl of Miami. A 60-minute car journey is all that separates the concrete jungle from the extraordinary biodiversity of this stunning ecosystem.
The Everglades National Park covers an expansive 1.5 million acres, and airboat expeditions are offered to the area’s one million or so annual tourists. These thrilling rides dash through the swamps at nearly 60 miles per hour, giving passengers an up-close view of the fascinating wildlife and lush vegetation.
And as the biggest subtropical habitat in the country, the Everglades naturally hosts an extensive array of animals. Its mangroves and grass marshes, for example, are home to varieties of snakes and wading birds as well as alligators. For many decades, though, the wetlands here were deemed surplus to developers’ requirements, meaning a number of swamps were ultimately drained to make way for roads, farmland and property.
As a result, Florida residents may share the land with the area’s wilder inhabitants. Visitors can see these creatures, too; they may get a glimpse of manatees swimming in the waters, for instance, or bobcats and white-tailed deer roaming the pastures. Those with more patience and a keen eye may even spot members of more threatened species such as the Florida panther or the American crocodile.
Many of the in excess of 350 bird species native to the area are also incredibly rare. The large but graceful wood stork has been deemed by the U.S. government as endangered, for example. This wading bird casts an elegant silhouette and is beloved of both bird watchers and nature photographers.
Also registered on the threatened or endangered lists are the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, the Everglades snail kite and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Birds, however, are not known to be a threat to humans. So, what lurks in the Florida swamps that may pose a real danger to any person in the vicinity?
Well, although the West Indian manatee is perhaps the most distinctive Everglades resident, the placid mammal is more a gentle giant than a menace. These animals lumber softly through the water and may seek out humans both for company and a source of warmth. Manatees also mostly take their nourishment from aquatic plants.
In fact, humans are much more of a threat to the manatee than they are to us, as these sea creatures are so leisurely in their movements that they can prove vulnerable to passing dangers. For instance, they’re sometimes too slow to avoid speeding boats, which can maim or kill any animal in their paths.
And while the manatee is also on the endangered species list, arguably the rarest creature to be found in the Everglades is the Florida panther. These wild cats were once desirable trophies for hunters – meaning, unfortunately, that they were almost wiped out entirely. Indeed, conservationists believe that fewer than 100 of these animals now remain in their natural habitat.
Yet although humans may pose more of a threat to both the Florida panther and the manatee than they do to us, the same cannot be said of some of the other Everglades residents. The Florida black bear, for instance, is considered one of the most dangerous animals in the state; as it, too, is endangered, however, members of the species are seldom spotted in the national park.
Many visitors to the Everglades may also be unaware that its waters may host sharks. Yes, while these fearsome predators usually prefer the saltwater of the ocean, there are some varieties – such as lemon sharks and blacktip sharks – whose body functions can adapt to the fresh waters of Florida’s swamps. And, unfortunately, they include one of the most dangerous species around.
We’re talking about the aggressive bull shark, which can sometimes be seen patrolling the Everglades’ channels as well as the mouths of rivers and cruise coastlines in search of prey. However, while these beasts are known to ambush humans, they typically prefer to feed on much tinier animals.
Elsewhere in the Everglades’ water, certain types of fish can pose a threat to humans. Indeed, although barracudas very rarely attack people, they can sometimes be attracted by anything particularly eye-catching — such as jewelry — that swimmers may be wearing. This can occasionally provoke the fish into assuming that there is prey – like the silvery fish they feed upon – in the water. Marlins, meanwhile, are more of a danger to fishermen in the area.
Some underwater attacks may come completely by surprise, too. For instance, while the needlefish may seem relatively unassuming – typically coming in at around a foot in length and less than a pound in weight – its razor-sharp mouth is nevertheless a hazard. And although this creature is not known as a human predator, it’s still capable of causing damage.
Needlefish usually travel close to the surface of bodies of water near the coast where it’s warm. However, if they’re fleeing predators or chasing their prey, they may “take flight” for brief periods and rise to the top. Anything that gets in the needlefish’s way, then, may just feel how sharp its mouth is.
Then there’s the box jellyfish, as the ocean’s most venomous inhabitant is also known to reside in the Everglades’ channels. There are between 20 and 30 varieties of this creature, which can measure anything from under an inch to ten feet. Regardless of the box jellyfish’s size, though, it should definitely be avoided, as victims can die after experiencing the pain of its sting alone.
And perhaps the most famous Everglades predator is the alligator. The reptile can easily be confused with the crocodile, of course, although there is an easy way to tell them apart. Simply put, an alligator has a round, broad nose; the same feature on a crocodile, however, comes to a point. In addition, alligators are largely more common across the whole of Florida, while crocodiles live only in the most southerly regions of the state.
Crocodiles can be just as vicious as alligators, too, although the American variety is less aggressive than many of its counterparts from around the world. And while alligators tend to strike only when they feel threatened, they should nevertheless be avoided as well.
Yet Bergeron faced none of these animals beneath the Florida house; in fact, the creature he discovered in the basement was itself a threat to much of the Everglades’ native wildlife. It was a breed of snake called a Burmese python — and one of its kind had once been reported to have swallowed an alligator whole.
At 165 pounds and around 16 feet long, the python was the second largest that Bergeron had ever seen. In fact, from nose to tail, the snake was merely a foot away from being the longest ever measured in the state. Perhaps most terrifyingly of all, though, the female predator was protecting a nest of at least 50 eggs.
And this frightening reptile was found underneath a house in Broward County that sits four miles from Alligator Alley. Alligator Alley is an 80-mile stretch of highway that dissects the Everglades National Park between Fort Lauderdale and Naples, and as its name suggests it’s a prime location for gator spotters. The native wildlife in the area is under threat, however, from the Burmese python.
The Burmese python typically has a placid nature, and combined with the attractive designs that appear on its skin, this makes the species a favorite among snake owners. But these snakes can grow quickly and can get incredibly large. Then, when they become too much for their handlers, they can become aggressive. Attacks, then, are not unheard of, and some have been fatal.
The snake’s diet consists purely of meat, with birds and small mammals primarily featuring on the menu. As the python’s vision isn’t too good, however, it relies on heat receptors lining its jaws and chemical sensors on its tongue to close in on its prey. And killing for the Burmese python is an act of brute strength.
You see, the Burmese python is a constrictor, meaning it will wrap its body around its chosen victim after having gripped it between its teeth. Then the snake will crush the breath out of its prey until it’s dead. And as the Burmese python’s jaws are so flexible, it’s able to gobble its meal up in a single piece.
Young Burmese pythons are frequently found in trees, although slivering up trunks become more awkward after they have matured. As these creatures can come in at around 23 feet and 200 pounds, however, they can practically be the size of a tree themselves. In fact, these snakes have been described as growing to as thick as a telephone pole.
So, all of this makes the Burmese python one of the biggest — and deadliest — snakes in the world. Even more alarmingly, the snake is an expert swimmer capable of remaining underwater for half an hour before coming up for air. But while this may make the Everglades’ swampland fertile ground for the species to thrive, there’s a problem.
As you may have already assumed, Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia rather than the wetlands of the Florida Everglades. And while these reptiles were first introduced to the area over two decades ago when snake enthusiasts snapped them up, members of the species didn’t always work well as domestic animals.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, some of these pets then went on to escape into the wild, while others were deliberately released. As a result, the Burmese python is now considered an invasive species without any natural predators to keep the population in check. And owing to the snake’s appetite for native mammals such as limpkins, wood storks and Key Largo woodrats, fauna in the area is now in considerable peril.
In 2019 Bergeron explained to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “The Burmese python poses a significant threat to the Florida Everglades by disrupting the natural food chain.” But the conservationist’s actions prevented an influx of this apex predator. As you’ll recall, the snake in the Broward County home was female and guarding a nest of around 50 eggs.
And, worryingly, a number of the eggs were actually cracking open as Bergeron surveyed the nest site. Fortunately, though, the specialist was able to relocate both these and the snake guarding them. “With good fortune, we were able to find a large female and remove her and an entire nest of up to 50 baby snakes, which would have continued killing off our precious habitat,” Bergeron continued to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In fact, the hunting of Burmese pythons in the Everglades is actively encouraged.
No license is required to hunt Burmese pythons, nor are there are no restrictions on when they may be pursued. Some have even turned the tracking of these snakes into a sport, with the annual Python Challenge encouraging members of the public to capture as many of the slithery pests as possible.
Local wildlife trapper Mike Kimmel – a self-avowed “python cowboy” – has proved himself particularly accomplished at ridding the area of the snakes, having captured eight of the invasive species during the 2020 Python Challenge. Yet while this total accounts for a tenth of the number of snakes hunted down in the competition that year, it’s made scarcely a dent in a population estimated to be in the tens of thousands in the Everglades.
Kimmel found the going hard, too. In a January 2020 Instagram post, he wrote, “It was not an easy win, that’s for sure. I ran into all kinds of obstacles. I hunted ten days straight, covering thousands of miles of levees and woods [and] sleeping in the swamp when not hunting. [I] kept my nose to the grindstone, and I can proudly say I gave it my all.” That said, the incentive to track down these snakes can be huge.
Indeed, those who hunt for a living can expect a return of a few hundred dollars in government payouts for every python captured. Then, once the snakes are euthanized, they can be used in other ways. For instance, Kimmel gives snake meat to the wild hogs on his property. Speaking of his spoils to The Guardian, the trapper added, “It’s good money; a large snake can be worth about $1,000 to me.”
The Burmese python’s skin can also be used to manufacture luxury goods such as purses, boots and wallets. Typically, these reptiles have tan-colored outsides that feature dark patchwork similar to that of a giraffe. And while these markings are non-uniform, they nevertheless appear to slot together – much like elements of a jigsaw.
So, while the Python Challenge may not be completely ridding the Everglades and its surroundings of these creatures, it may help. After all, conservationists have spent years attempting to gain control over the python population in Florida – even going so far as to employ chanting snake charmers from India. And as research has shown that a rise in python numbers has coincided with a significant decline in wildlife native to the Everglades, winning the battle against the snakes may be crucial in keeping this part of the state at its best.