For this week’s Tea’s Weird Week podcast I was thrilled to be able to chat with Nick Redfern, one of the most prolific authors in the paranormal field. He’s written about almost every fortean and paranormal topic you can think of– Bigfoot (The Bigfoot Book), the Men in Black (and the Women in Black), extraterrestrials (The Alien Book: A Guide to Extraterrestrials on Earth), conspiracy (The New World Order Book), sea monsters (Monsters of the Deep), Chupacabras (Chupacabra Road Trip) and so much more– Nick told me he estimates he’s written about 70 books, but with second and foreign editions that number is in flux. He’s also written hundreds of articles (he’s a frequent contributor to Mysterious Universe) and has made many appearances on TV and radio shows and in documentaries.
All of Nick’s books are of interest to me, but his latest title made me do a double-take: Diary of Secrets: UFO Conspiracies and the Mysterious Death of Marilyn Monroe explores a theory that Marilyn Monroe did not take her own life in 1962 as the “official story” states, but rather was murdered because she “knew too much” about government secrets, including UFOs. Her source? Loose pillow talk from her rumored affairs with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy. Marilyn supposedly wrote down some of these classified revelations in her secret diary– which went missing after her death.
At the center of the idea that Marilyn knew about the UFOs is a mysterious document that showed up in the 1990s and was sent to Milo Speriglio, author of Marilyn Monroe: Murder Cover-up (1982) and The Marilyn Conspiracy (1986). The document is either a well executed forgery hoax, or, I suppose, the real deal. Among the language in it is Monroe’s knowledge of a “spacecraft” crash in New Mexico.
Nick went on a road trip journey that led him to a variety of interesting interviews with people who claimed knowledge of the mysterious fate of one of America’s most well known sex symbols and pop culture icons. Like all of his work, Nick has written an interesting, entertaining, and thought provoking book. I highly recommend this as a summer read!
Tea’s Weird Week Season 2, episode 5, Marilyn Monroe and the UFOs: I talk more in-depth with Nick Redfern about his writing process and his book Diary of Secrets: UFO Conspiracies and the Mysterious Death of Marilyn Monroe. In the news segment, me and Heidi discuss a mysterious wave of Garfield telephones, a man swallowed by a whale, atomic honey (cool band name, huh?), magnetic flim-flam claims by Dr. Tenpenny, and more flim-flam from Ed and Lorraine Warren, the inspiration for The Conjuring movies. Plus trivia and the premiere of a brand new track by Sunspot inspired by the topic of Nick’s book, “Dear Diary.”
Please Clap Dept.: Lynn Stevens wrote up a lengthy interview with me on my book American Madness for Maximum Rocknroll: maximumrocknroll.com/article/american-madness-by-tea-krulos
Check out my latest books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
I see there’s a new Conjuring movie out, the latest addition to the “Conjuring-verse” starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as “demonologists” Ed and Lorraine Warren. Oh Hollywood, you old devil.
Before I delve more into that, let’s revisit the “Trash TV” era of daytime tabloid talk shows. In the 80s and 90s, shows like Geraldo (1987-1998), Donahue (1970-1996), The Jenny Jones Show (1991-2003), The Jerry Springer Show (1991-2018), Maury (1991-present), and The Sally Jesse Rafaël Show (1983-2002) and others were all in competition with each other.
While cruising around Google, I found an episode of The Sally Jesse Rafaël Show with Ed and Lorraine Warren as guests from 1992 and it is just hog wild. In 1992 all of the shows I listed were on daytime TV and if you wanted to grab those ratings, you best dump the idle chit chat and get down and dirty– scream at a Satanist, get your nose broken by a white supremacist, send bratty teens to boot camp, break someone’s heart or reveal that they are “not the father.”
The Warrens fit right in to this environment. In the Conjuring movies the Warrens are depicted as beautiful people that are courageous warriors fighting demons, but there are quite a lot of accounts that suggest otherwise. They’ve been accused of being grifters who fabricate, exaggerate, and exploit to sell books, movies based on their appearances, and get paid appearances. They were experts of making a mountain out of a molehill, and as such were perfect Trash TV guests.
The Warrens 1992 appearance on Sally Jessy Rafaël’s show tied in with the release of a book titled In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting, which was turned in the pre-Conjuring-verse film The Haunting in Connecticut. The book is listed as being authored by the Warrens, the Snedekers (Al and Carmen), and another person I’ll talk more about in a minute. The Snedekers claim that in 1986, they moved into a home that was a former funeral home in Southington, Connecticut. The Snedekers say that their entire family witnessed supernatural events and the parents said they were sexually assaulted by ghosts or demons (incubus/succubus). They called in the Warrens, who stayed for 9 weeks or so, culminating with an exorcism that cleared the evil forces out. The case was also featured on shows like A Haunting and Paranormal Witness.
The Warrens (and the Snedekers) were not writers. The Warrens would hand notes to an author, usually a burgeoning horror novelist, so they could write a dramatic account of what happened. In the case of the Snedeker book, the Warrens hired then 29-year-old horror author Ray Garton. Garton was sent to interview the Snedekers and he says the story immediately began to fall apart.
In an interview, Garton says:
“When I found that the Snedekers couldn’t keep their individual stories straight, I went to Ed Warren and explained the problem. “They’re crazy,” he said. “All the people who come to us are crazy, that’s why they come to us. Just use what you can and make the rest up. You write scary books, right? Well, make it up and make it scary. That’s why we hired you.”
Yikes. Garton also says in the interview that “the family was a mess, but their problems were not supernatural and they weren’t going to get the kind of help they needed from the Warrens,” and that he never met the son, who much of the story revolved around. “I was allowed to talk to him briefly on the phone, but as soon as he started telling me that the things he ‘saw’ in the house went away after he’d been medicated, Carmen abruptly ended the conversation,” Garton says. The Warrens also said they had a videotape of supernatural activity– which Garton never saw because the Warrens said they lost it.
Garton finished the book, but guilt about fabricating the story led him to later speak out in several interviews. He called the book “the low point of my career.” And he says he’s not the only writer with this experience. From the same interview:
“Since writing the book, I’ve learned a lot that leaves no doubt in my mind about the fraudulence of the Warrens and the Snedekers — not that I had much doubt, anyway. I’ve talked to other writers who’ve been hired to write books for the Warrens — always horror writers, like myself — and their experiences with the Warrens have been almost identical to my own.”
With all this in mind, here is the 1992 episode of The Sally Jessy Rafaël Show titled “I Was Raped by a Ghost.” I included some notes on the program (but not on the incredible 90s fashion). A content warning, as the title implies, there is talk of alleged sexual assault by demons. Here is video of the entire episode:
0:15: Yes, the actual title for this episode was “I Was Raped by a Ghost.” Screen captions explain guests with phrases like: “Al SAYS HE WAS SODOMIZED BY A GHOST” and Al & Carmen SAY THEY WERE SEXUALLY MOLESTED BY A GHOST.
8:40: Sally Jesse: “In order to fully understand, we want you to show us what happened. We have a bed here today…” uh WHUT.
12:22: Al: “Carmen, I think I was just sodomized by this demon.”
12:40: Carmen imitates demon laughing as it takes pleasure sodomizing her, sounds like Count Chocula.
20:00: Carmen: “One night I ran down the street with Kelly, being sodomized the whole way.” I’m starting to think the Snedekers maybe just had a bad case of hemorrhoids.
21:43: Richard and other neighbors: NOT IMPRESSED, OVER IT.
28:27: This woman went on to be the most frequent poster in your neighborhood-orientated Facebook group (and also the butt of reoccurring jokes in that group).
31:54: Here’s Ed and Lorraine, promoting the book I mentioned, In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting. Sally refers to them as “ghostbusters.” Ed’s opening line is “We feel through our investigation that necrophilia, abuse of the corpses occurred at the home. Not necessarily by the undertakers, it could be anyone that went in there.” Dude, what?! He doesn’t offer any proof that would back up his pretty bold claim that the neighborhood’s dearly departed were being buggered, but I would guess the source was a psychic vision by Lorraine.
33:01: Neighbors: YEAH RIGHT. Also, weird green screen of the Snedeker House behind them. Just looks weird.
34:38: And if you want to know where the party is, this guy knows.
35:40: “If you ask the gentleman sitting right over there.” Uh yeah, that gentleman might be biased– that’s the Warren’s nephew and heir apparent John Zaffis, who went on to star in the reality show Haunted Collector.
38:58: They gave Joe Nickell of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry about 3 minutes, most of it Ed shouting over him. You might think it strange that a guy who loves weird stuff and hosts a Milwaukee Paranormal Conference and leads ghost tours would not like a skeptic, but that’s not true. Nickell is a great research journalist and I’m a fan of that. He’s got good information that Warrens are liars and that’s why Ed is trying to yell over him.
41:53: Carmen: “Ghosts have no gender, I don’t think. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe they have a gender.” That might be true, but they def got something they can stick in your butt.
42:16: Sally: “The exorcism apparently worked,” on hearing that the Snedekers were no longer being haunted.
Well, there you go, I think we all learned a valuable lesson here…that demonic hauntings can PAY BIG. The Haunting in Connecticut movie made over $77 million at the box office, The Conjuring made $318 million (one of the most profitable horror films of all time) and spawned 6 sequels and spin-offs. Hey, I get it– I’ve seen maybe 4 out of 7 of these movies, and I enjoyed them– just ignore that “based on a true story” bullshit claim at the beginning of the movie.
Tea’s Weird Week Season 2 Episode 4, Thanatochemistry: My co-host Heidi Erickson interviews death professional Kelly Teague about thanatochemistry, green funerals, and the Death Cafe, Tea and Heidi talk about the upcoming Midwest Haunters Convention and weird news about squids in space, mathematical bees, watermelon crushin’ record, a strange drone attack, and the classic 2004 case of Marvin Heemeyer and his Killdozer. Plus trivia from Miss Information, original music by Android138 and we close out with a fiery track from Queen Tut, “Matador.”
Listen here! Tea’s Weird Week S2 ep04: Thanatochemistry (podbean.com)
Check out my latest books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
How to describe Schroeder Used Books and Music? As one Yelp review started, how can I even begin? Another uses a word that succinctly sums up the store: overwhelming. Schroeder Books (often also called Schroeder’s) was a cluttered and strange used book store in a suburb of Milwaukee, West Allis, located across the street from the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds on 76th St and Greenfield Ave.
Inside– an avalanche of stacks and boxes and piles of all sorts of books, instruction manuals, magazines, cassette tapes, records, 8-tracks, VHS, porn, and a decoration of plush animals and knick knacks in the windows. The store manager was an eccentric woman named Alma who wore a lopsided Halloween wig and sat perched on a pile of magazines near the doorway (the front counter had been buried in magazines and books. The store was shut down in 2015 by the West Allis Fire Dept.
Last month, the new owner of the building opened the doors a few times to try to sell some of the massive stock. His goal is to clear the storefront out (a massive undertaking) so he can clean up and lease it to a new business (or 2 or 3, the store could easily be divided). Everything was $1, with an even better deal on bigger piles. I was able to go to one of these sales to peruse Schroeder Books one last time.
In the latest Tea’s Weird Week podcast, me and Miss Information did a dramatic reading of some of the Yelp reviews Schroeder Books picked over the years, I talked about some of the books I found at that sale and did an on-the-spot interview with my friend Alex about a rare item found in the store– you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out what, though.
With Schroeder Books gone, where can one go in Milwaukee to dig into some used books? Here’s my list:
–Downtown Books (624 N. Broadway) one of my favorites– I used to hang out at their old location a lot because it had an amazing collection of comic books and sci-fi stuff. It is organized and clean and has a good selection.
–Renaissance Books (Mitchell International and Southridge Mall) Renaissance used to have a store in a big, creaky, dusty building downtown on Plankinton Ave. Like Schroeder Books, it was shut down because of code violations in 2011– it was overstuffed with books, the floors were sagging, the stairs felt unsteady. Check out this article/ photos from Bobby Tanzilo for OnMilwaukee.com: Urban spelunking: A peek inside the old Renaissance Books (onmilwaukee.com) The store has lived on, though, as they have a store in Mitchell International, the only used bookstore I’ve encountered in an airport and one in Southridge Mall (I haven’t visited that one).
–Voyageur Books (2212 S. Kinnickinnic Ave) A really nice new, used, and antiquarian store. Really good browsing and just up the street from the wonderful Lion’s Tooth bookstore and cafe.
–The Turning Page (2452 N. Murray Ave.) This used to be the Schroeder Books of comic book stores– a heap of comics spanning decades piled all over the place, run by an eccentric character. The new owners did a great job cleaning the store up and making it an organized and functional new and used store.
Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep03 Lost in the Schroeder Books Vortex: I talk more about Schroeder Books and me and Miss Information read some of the Yelp reviews of the store. In the news segment, Tea and Heidi talk about upcoming events they’ll be at, the Rod of Iron Ministries, a sovereign citizen on a Dukes of Hazzard-style police chase, Pokémon (Got to shoot your ass), Unusual Mortality Events of whales, and more. Plus Miss Information has new trivia, original music from Dan Hintz and Android138, and we close out with a brand new conspiracy-themed track from Xposed 4heads, “Kink in the System.”
Please Clap Dept.: I’m honored to say I won a National Indie Excellence Book Award in the “Current Events” category for my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness. You can order the book via Lion’s Tooth, Bookshop.org, Amazon, or wherever books are sold.
If you’re new to Tea’s Weird Week, well, hi, my name is Tea. I’ve written 5 published books to date. My first was titled Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement. As the subtitle applies, it’s a dive into the Real Life Superhero (or “RLSH”) movement or subculture. It was an incredible adventure– I traveled around the country to meet RLSH on their home turf to join them on patrols, charity events, and humanitarian missions. I had some wonderful moments as well as some terrifying ones. I met some cool, interesting people, some that I’m still in contact with today (and I’ve met some new RLSH since). I began work on the book in 2009– in addition to trying to figure out just what this whole RLSH thing was all about, I was also figuring out how to write a book. I sold the book and turned my manuscript in to Chicago Review Press in 2012 and it was published in 2013.
One memorable RLSH I met was Denise Masino aka Miss Fit. I met her at an RLSH meet-up in San Diego in 2011 called HOPE. I loved her story because it smashed the whole “RLSH are all nerdy Caucasian virgin LARPers” misconception that floated around the snarky corners of the Internet. Miss Fit is a Brooklynite (via Puerto Rico), professional bodybuilder, model and erotic entertainer, athlete, and a RLSH with a charitable mission.
During some downtime at HOPE, I had a chance to talk with Denise, and I thought it might be fun to arm wrestle her–I don’t know, I thought it might be good material for the book. But we quickly found out this was a mismatch because Miss Fit has short but very muscular arms– those pythons ain’t no joke– whereas I, on the other hand, have long, gangly arms like a tree branch. We called it a draw, but I’m sure she would have won and was just doing me a kindness.
I thought of her being a good Tea’s Weird Week guest because she recently had a documentary about her, The Adventures of Miss Fit, re-cut into a web series.
Here’s what’s really great about Miss Fit, though: every year since I first met her ten years ago, Denise has led the Miss Fits 4 Life, a superhero themed league that raises money for a great cause, St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital. The team solicits donations leading up to them entering a warrior dash obstacle course race– it’s a pretty intense one with wall climbing, plenty of mud, and a little bit of barbed wire. It’s all for a good cause and the Miss Fits 4 Life have been amazing at fundraising. This year they are hoping the team will be passing the $200,000 mark for fundraising over the last decade– not bad for a rogue bunch of heroes!
You can help the heroes make their goal this year– the best way to stay up to speed is to look for announcements from Miss Fit on how to participate and donate via her YouTube: www.youtube.com/MissFitHero
Please Clap Dept.: I’m honored to say that last week I was awarded a gold Excellence in Journalism Award by the Milwaukee Press Club. You can read more about how the article shook down as well as a link to the article and an audio file of me reading it here: https://teakrulos.com/2021/05/22/i-won-a-gold-milwaukee-press-club-excellence-in-journalism-award/
Tea’s Weird Week podcast, Season 2, Episode 2: Hear my interview with Miss Fit, plus me and Heidi talk about citizen journalists, revisit upcoming UFO disclosure, and talk about another Real-life Superhero, ShadowVision, who claims he is “hunting” a serial killer in Little Rock. Plus we close out with an appropriate song for the episode– “Hero,” performed by one of Miss Fit’s RLSH friends, Rock N Roll of the California Initiative!
Check out my books:
I’m honored to say I was announced this week as winner of a gold Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Award in the “Best Short Hard News Feature” category. MPC is the oldest operating press club in North America (e. 1885). The entrants were judged by my peers at other press clubs around the country.
I think some people just have a vague idea that I write about “weird stuff,” but I take what I do seriously. I’ve freelanced on a wide range of topics– food/drink, art, music, independent businesses, interesting personalities, reviews, everything from short blurbs to longform pieces. I think that the more experience you have writing, the more you recognize what you’re good at.
The award was for an article I wrote last year for Milwaukee Magazine titled “Reporting Live from the Street” (the online version has the different title “How Citizen Journalists Captured the Chaos in Kenosha” and is a bit longer than the print version.)
I started piecing together the story the day after the shootings by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha last August, where Rittenhouse killed two people and injured a third. I was watching the news the next day (I watched more cable news this year and last than I have my entire prior life x 3, easily) glued to the reports. I noticed that all of the footage from that night had watermarks on it from “The Rundown Live” and “BG on the Scene.” I happened to know Kristan T. Harris of The Rundown Live, as he participated in some past events I had done, and I wrote an article about him for Milwaukee Record about his bid to be presidential nominee for the Transhumanist Party– he’s an interesting guy.
I learned that Harris, Brandon Guteschwager (BG on the Scene), and others like them were people that are sometimes called “citizen journalists,” independent reporters who livestream from protests and other events to share footage of what’s going on at street level. It is because of the footage of Harris, Gutenschwager, CJ Halliburton (CJTV), and Andrew Mercado (Mercado Media) that we know what happened that night in Kenosha. If they had not captured it, I think it’s entirely possible that Rittenhouse would have walked away from the scene and disappeared into the night unidentified.
That night was far from the end of the story. Rittenhouse was released on a $2 million bail, paid by his admirers (including Silver Spoons actor Ricky Schroder and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell). After making bail, he was spotted at a bar in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin hanging out and singing karaoke with the Proud Boys. And I’m sure people will take to the streets again when Rittenhouse goes on trial (which was pushed back to November).
As for the citizen journalists, they have continued to travel across the country covering events and they’ve shot footage that you’ve probably seen of protests in Minneapolis, the January 6 Insurrection, and other locations. I’d like to thank Kristan T. Harris, Brandon Gutenschwager, and CJ Halliburton for the interviews for the article– their candid accounts of what happened that terrifying night really made the story. I’d also like to thank Kate for her feedback on the article, my editor Chris Drosner at Milwaukee Magazine for his help and supportive words, and everyone else on staff there that I’ve had the opportunity to work with.
You can read the article here: “How Citizen Journalists Captured the Chaos in Kenosha,” Milwaukee Magazine.
I also uploaded an audio file of myself reading the article via the Tea’s Weird Week podcast channels. You can listen here: TWW Singles: Tea Reads his Award-winning Article About Citizen Journalists (podbean.com)
Thanks you all for your support. Being a freelance journalist and an author working with indie book publishers is awesome and thrilling, but not particularly lucrative. If you want to support me as a writer, one of the best ways is to buy one of my books, buy one for a friend, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or share on social media. Here are links to all my books via the best places to buy them:
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
Monster Hunters (2015, Chicago Review Press)
Heroes in the Night (2013, Chicago Review Press)
Tea’s Weird Week: 2020 Review (e-book collection of my columns from last year)
It’s so thrilling to have the podcast back on the air for a “season 2.” We kicked things off this season with an epic showdown between two local legend contenders. As I say in the intro to this podcast episode, we love folklore and legends at Tea’s Weird Week. There’s so many small towns across the country that have some story about a monster lurking in the forest, creeping a country lane, or swimming in the local pond. For many of these towns, their monster story is their main claim to fame– consider, for example, Mothman– who has made Point Pleasant, West Virginia a tourist destination.
This episode talks about the Hodag, monster celebrity of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and the Snallygaster of Fredrick County, Maryland.
I’m very well familiar with the Hodag. My parents took me to Rhinelander during a trip “Up North,” just so I could see photos and a sculpture of the monster in the Lumberjack Museum and they got me a t-shirt and a plush Hodag. People are still make a pilgrimage to Rhinelander to get souvenirs, as I found when I talked to Ben Brunell, proprietor of the Hodag Store (thehodagstore.com) for this episode. But what the heck is a Hodag? Well, I wrote an entry on it for my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press) and here’s an excerpt:
Perhaps the most uniquely Wisconsin monster in this list is the Hodag, a fearsome animal with giant horns, fangs, and a row of spines down its back. It’s frightening and yet also a sign of civic pride in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where the Hodag story originates.
The Hodag, I hate to spoil so quickly, was a hoax. It was created by one of Wisconsin history’s most colorful characters, Eugene Shepard, who worked in the timber industry as a land surveyor and later in life ran a resort near Rhinelander. He hung around lumberjack camps, and as you might recall from the last chapter, claims to be the originator of Paul Bunyan folklore. He was an early circulator of the tall tales, but taking his word on anything would be hard to do as he was also a well known practical joker.
Among his many pranks were fooling people at a resort he ran into believing he had a unique, rare breed of scented moss on the property (which was regular moss doused in perfume) and a fake muskie he had rigged up to leap out of the water to entice guests into taking fishing trips. He liked to enlist a friend to pinch people’s legs on public transportation while he imitated a growling dog to fool them into thinking they had been bitten. To be in Shepard’s vicinity was to be a practical joke victim in waiting.
Shepard’s hoax with the longest-lasting impact began in 1893 when he claimed he had encountered a Hodag, a beast based on lumberjack folklore. A Hodag, lumberjacks believed, was the ghost of a disgruntled ox. In 1896, Shepard claimed he had captured the beast (by putting chloroform at the end of a long pole and knocking the monster unconscious). Several other details about the life of the Hodag were embellished and reported by Shepard and others—the Hodag preferred to dine on white bulldogs, for example, or that its young were delivered from a set of 13 eggs.
While scrolling through Instagram, I discovered the American Snallygaster Museum and was delighted by the story. The Snallygaster is a weird bird/octopus/dragon hybrid– depictions have varied slightly, some show it with one eye or three eyes, tentacles on it’s mouth or body, etc. The legend came with German immigrants who settled in Frederick County, Maryland. It’s not a story as well known as the Hodag or Mothman, but Sarah Cooper, creator of the American Snallygaster Museum (snallygastermuseum.com) is hoping to change that. She’s assembled art and other artifacts that’s she’s been displaying as a pop-up, but is working on a permanent location.
The Hodag Store and the American Snallygaster Museum– two spots to add to your monster road trip!
Tea’s Weird Week, S2, Ep02: Hodag vs Snallygaster: In addition to talking to Ben Brunell (Hodag Store) and Sarah Cooper (American Snallygaster Museum), me and Heidi had a lot of catching up to do on weird news– Miss Information is back with a trivia question (answer to win fabulous prizes), and we close the episode out with a beautiful track from Mere of Light, “Moon from a Well.” Additional music: “Mecha vs Titan” by Kaijusonic/T.Reed/ Tao X Productions and “Demon Business” by Android138.
Check out my books:
There’s many things I like about the Tea’s Weird Week podcast, but one reason it is dear to me is that it’s been a part of my social time, a chance to talk to cool, interesting people, some I’ve known a long time, others I’ve just met. After wanting to do a podcast for years, the pandemic downtime finally caught up to me and like a million billion other people, I got that podcast rolling. TWW has a great crew– my co-host Heidi Erickson, sound engineer Android138, and trivia host Miss Information. We did a 13 episode inaugural season that ran January through April. Like a lot of things I do, it was a case of building an airplane while flying it, but I think it turned out well.
In season one, we had some really fun original music by Android138 and other music guests, an interesting array of interviews with people like writer and UFO podcaster Ryan Sprague, the yodeling dominatrix Manuela Horn, Lake Monster expert Scott Mardis, and Patch O’Furr, a furry investigative journalist, just to name a few. We also did things like an episode based on audio from my 2017 tour of the Luxury Survival Condos.
I love having a weekly discussion with Heidi for the Tea’s Weird Week News segment about topical stories and classic strange cases; a couple people won big answering Miss Information’s trivia, and we closed out each episode with a track by an awesome indie band. I guess the podcast follows a sort of weirdo late night show format– opening monologue/interview, weird news talk, bonus skit stuff (like some of the music bits and the “Comedy Roast of Zorth“), trivia question, song. We try to have fun and inform you about the very weird world around us.
You can listen to the entire season on your preferred platform choice– find the episode list and links to all platforms here: Tea’s Weird Week Podcast | (teakrulos.com)
We’re working on a new 13 episode season 2 (summer season) right now and we’ve got a lot of great stuff going. I’m going to tell you about the first 3 episodes we got in production and some of the ideas we have beyond that.
(S2, EP01.) Hodag vs. Snallygaster. We love local lore at Tea’s Weird Week. Many small towns across the country have some story about a monster that lurks in the woods, stalks a creepy country lane, or swims in the local pond. We talk with the proprietors of the Hodag Store in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and the American Snallygaster Museum in Frederick County, Maryland about their homespun monsters. (airs 5/21)
(S2, EP02.) The Marvelous Miss Fit. I met Miss Fit– bodybuilder, charity fundraiser, and Real-life Superhero star of The Adventures of Miss Fit while working on my book Heroes in the Night. A stereotype of Real-life Superheroes is that they are dorky, delusional Batman-wannabe white dudes. Miss Fit bench-presses that idea, then body-slams it, then puts it in a headlock. She’s just rad, is what I’m saying. (airs 5/28)
(S2, EP03.) Lost in the Schroeder’s Books Vortex. Imagine a bookstore that looks like something out of an episode of Hoarders, run by a mysterious and eccentric woman, a hodgepodge tsunami of books ranging from the worthless to the priceless. Well, you’ll have to imagine because the West Allis, Wisconsin Fire Department shut Schroeder’s Books and Music down years ago, but we get one last look as the store is being cleared out and remember the sights and smells of the store, plus a dramatic reading of some of the store’s Yelp reviews. (airs 6/4)
After that I’m not sure what order these might appear, but we have episode ideas in the works that include interviewing Nick Redfern about his new book, a visit to our friends at Dead by Dawn Dead & Breakfast in Manitowoc, a Bohemian Grove episode, and much more, plus some great music and intriguing trivia.
After that, we’ll take a short summer vacation and then season 3 will really be all out because it will be our fall season– lots going on. As I wrote in a 2019 Tea’s Weird Week column, “October is Mad Boo-Business.” We’ll be recording live from some events, doing our own live events, some ghost investigating.
You can see me and Heidi do the news segment live in the Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group (and hopefully I’ve figured out how to hook Streamyard to YouTube), we’re going live this Friday, May 14, 5pm CST for S2, ep01.
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I like to think I got my finger on the pulse of all things weird, but none of us are omnipresent weird, so I was boggled and amazed by the story of the Love Has Won cult, which I had not heard of. I missed their appearance on Dr. Phil last year (along with every episode of the show). This is why I value the Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group so much– it’s become a great clearinghouse for sharing weird news and I, of course, love every second of it.
Let’s start with this scene– May 23, 2020. A man named Alex Whitten was found “naked and dehydrated with cactus needles in his feet wandering through the desert north of Crestone (Colorado, a small mecca of Buddhist and Hindu temples, New Age and other spiritual centers). He appeared to be hallucinating,” according to an in-depth article on gurumag.com titled “Crestone Cult Love Has Won Leaves Man to Die in Desert.”
Whitten’s wife said that he “brainwashed” himself watching livestreams from Love Has Won. Whitten was so compelled by the group’s message– that the “Mother God” was living in human form in Colorado, that he abandoned his wife and two kids in Ohio and flew West. But he did something to piss off the Mother God and her group, because days later he was drugged and left exposed in the San Luis Valley. Fortunately, a family-led search party found him. A core member of Love Has Won’s response to the incident: “We are not Alex’s babysitter…we are here for God, not whores that desert God.”
Last week, on April 28, seven members of Love Has Won were arrested and charged with “abuse of a corpse,” after the mummified remains of the group’s leader, Amy Carlson, aka “Mother God,” aka “Mom,” aka “Mama G,” were found in a trailer in Crestone. The corpse was reportedly “mummified,” slowly decomposing, wrapped in a sleeping bag, and adorned with Christmas tree lights, glitter around her eyes. Well, where her eyes used to be– they were missing. Her followers say she has now “ascended” and that “First Contact” is imminent. The group is ranked into the “Galactic Federation of Light Team” and the “First Contact Ground Crew,” both here to initiate and age of love. One of the members described the cult’s critics as “void engineers,” which is my new favorite term.
The mugshots of the 7 disciples arrested have a kind of Manson family vibe to them, or as Tea’s Weird Week group member Billy suggested, “some Midsommar-meets-Leatherface type of White Nonsense.” Well…
So many questions. How did she die? Where are the eyeballs? Where did these cult members come from? I don’t know the answers to all these and there’s a lot to take in with the story. I did fall down a little bit of a rabbit hole on this one, so I’ll share a few notes on some things that I found and how some of this relates to the Great Age of American Madness.
Who is Love Has Won?
“Among the teachings of Love Has Won is that Carlson is the 534th avatar of God on earth, and that she has revoked the free will of humanity as a failed experiment,” Raw Story reports. In past lives Amy Carlson says she has been Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth, and Marilyn Monroe. Not bad! She says her father is disgraced ex-president-turned-angry-blogger Donald Trump (or in his past life he was her father in her past life I think is more accurate–maybe.) This incarnation of Mother God was born in 1975 in Kansas.
What if God was one of of us? as Joan Osbourne once sang. Well, looks she spent some time managing a McDonald’s and bouncing around between Colorado, Texas, and Florida. There is a “Father God”– actually, there’s been a few over the years. Father Gods come and go. The latest Father God (aka Jason Gilbert Castillo), has a criminal record including child neglect, criminal mischief, two DWIs, trespassing, and breaking and entering.
Love Has Won, which describes itself as a “non-profit charity spiritual institution” includes conspiracy in their teachings. They talk about Reptilians and other extra-terrestrials, and they promote many beliefs that mirror QAnon, but in a more “crunchy” variation. You have your far-right, MAGA hat sporting Q followers, and then there’s this more New Agey version that leads to things like parts of the yoga and wellness community (sometimes inadvertently) peddling the same “Deep State cabal of satanic cannibal pedophiles” and other conspiracy ideas. It’s QAnon in downward dog position.
Another way to see the two sides of the same coin is the way far right conspiracy sites like InfoWars and dippy “wellness” sites like Goop and Moon Juice market the same health supplements, albeit very differently. Both InfoWars and Goop sell products based on cordyceps mushrooms, for example, but Goop markets it as “Sun Potion,” while InfoWars uses it in a coffee blend called “Wake Up America Immune Support.” Maca, which boosts libido, is used by Moon Juice as “Sex Powder,” InfoWars calls it a “Super Male Vitality” supplement. It’s classic marketing– the generic grocery store sells a can just stamped BEANS, Trader Joe’s has a colorful label for “100% organic artisan red beans.” Same shit, different pile.
Love Has Won developed their following– possibly thousands of people– in the same way most cult groups do nowadays– YouTube, Facebook live, and other streaming videos. This is the same way the modern Flat Earther and the QAnon movement gained traction. Random observation– I noticed that there’s a strong contingency of young Australian stoners in Love Has Won. They host a live YouTube show called “United Nations,” there’s also a “DAILY ENERGY UPDATE” show on Love Has Won’s YouTube page. People are hungry for something meaningful in their lives and YouTube becomes the vacuum cleaner of lost souls.
To make money, Love Has Won has offered services like “5-D astrology” (between this and QAnon always saying that Trump was playing “5-D chess,” I got to say I’m kinda over the 5th dimension these days) which will “help those on an Ascension path obtain a deeper understanding of themselves…done through the higher 5-D consciousness perspective.” Ok. They also perform “etheric surgeries” to remove “inorganic material,” over Skype, which sounds to me like just a rebranding of reiki. Love Has Won’s website also sold various candles and supplements, “Plasma Healing Spray,” “Gaia’s Salt Soak,” and a “Mother of of All Creation Divine Trait Oracle Deck” ($44.44) which includes cards with Carlson’s face photoshopped onto a classic depiction of Jesus Christ, and an Egyptian pyramid, and other mystical locations.
Another way the group makes money is classic cult 101– shake every dime out of your followers. Hand it over– trust funds, car titles, social security and disability checks, checking and savings accounts. Love Has Won checks every box to being a cult– according to ex-members, they were sleep deprived, had their food rationed, were verbally abused, and if they pissed off Mama G, they were sent to “Desolation Row,” a barren part of the woods on their property, where they had to fend for themselves. One member, Vice discovered, was berated and punished when he brought Mama G meatballs instead of chicken parmesan. Big mistake, God did not order the meatballs! Remember, Mother God said there is no free will– only her will.
God Loves Vodka
Part of this cruel punishment from Mother God might have stemmed from the fact that she has a vodka problem that transformed her from zen-platitude-spewing-guru to rage drunk pretty quickly. In fact, members believe that the amount of alcohol that she consumed was proof that she was otherworldly as a normal human couldn’t consume as much alcohol as she did and survive. One ex-member says that he saw Mother God drink 24 shots of tequila in a row. Another former member (an ex-Father God) said that starting around dinner time she drank a steady stream of highball glasses filled with vodka with a splash of water on top and would transform into a completely different and awful person.
Here’s a video from the Love Has Won YouTube page, listed as being recorded December 16, 2019. It’s an excruciating 10:25 long video where Mother God attempts to tell a story of how she discovered angels were communicating with her. It’s immediately obvious that everyone in the video is completely stoned out of their fucking gourd. You can even tell the people off camera are stoned. Mother God, drinking out of a copper cup (probably vodka), attempts to tell a story (at the pace of someone extremely fucked up) of how she was watching The Wizard of Oz on TBS, when she was captivated by a bumper segment of the screening that asked trivia about the film. Via this trivia, angels revealed that she was “the Holy Grail.” At least I think that’s what she’s trying to say–?:
Other videos show her inebriated, shaking a cat and yelling at it, calling it a “bitch” (her favorite insults are “bitch,” “banshee,” and “whore”) and some other not quite profound videos featuring her saying (or screaming) things about her critics like “yeah bitch, carry on with your banshee fucking self. Fff, what a whore.” and “My own life workers BATTLE ME! Serving love and bringing in a new paradigm you fucking dick whores. You’re about to get it!” and “you just fucking got me on the–fucking motherfucker. Fucking wow.”
Robin Williams is Standing By
Love Has Won’s website (which is down, but a YouTuber called Sepulcher Geist, who lost a co-worker to the cult, has a pretty hilarious video tour of the site HERE) says that one of their etheric surgery staff is none other than Robin Williams. Yes, Mrs. Doubtfire Robin Williams. Dead Poets Society, Jumanji, Hook, Patch Adams, etc., etc.,etc. beloved comedian and actor Robin Williams. The website says that on the day he died (Aug.11, 2014), Williams appeared in Mother God’s bedroom, told her he had been murdered, and that he is also Archangel Zadkiel, and that he wanted to be part of Mom’s team. Side note: notice how these mystic figures like to have Z names. But this story is making our QAnon Bigfoot friend Zorth look tame by comparison. In 2017, according to the Love Has Won website, Robin Williams finally got the props he deserves and was awarded as “Etheric Ambassador of the Ascension of Planet Earth=Heart” by Mother God. Nanoo nanoo!
To quote the Mother God, “fucking wow.”
I’m interested to follow this story and hear more details as cults have long fascinated me. But I want to say that beyond the jokes and morbid curiosity I’ve dropped in this column, I sincerely do hope some of these people are able to reconnect with their families and friends, many who I’m sure are destroyed with worry. It’s easy to understand why– cults like Heaven’s Gate and the followers of Jim Jones ended up killing themselves.
I understand the appeal a cult like this must have– the world is a sucking black hole of awfulness, a world of “void engineers,” I get it. Imagine finding a group that will act as your family of “love,” that will give you direction and a home, that will cure that loneliness. It all sounds beautiful til “Mama G” gets mad at you and strands you naked in the desert for forgetting her chicken parmesan… or you’re being asked to help hide a corpse.
Good luck out there.
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There was no Tea’s Weird Week column last week and it’s because I hit a wall and just could not write at all. Not in the least bit. It was the first time there was an unplanned skip in this weekly column.
It’s strange cause the week started off great– my friend’s at Lion’s Tooth, a wonderful new bookstore in Milwaukee, had me in to sign more copies of my book American Madness. They told me it’s selling pretty well there, so I was happy to visit, sign their stock, and pick up a few books and a t-shirt for myself. (Keep it rolling, order from them here: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/ ) Good stuff.
But the next day, Monday, I had a deadline for two short articles. If you don’t know me outside of my “weird” work, I freelance for some local publications here in Milwaukee on a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to) art, music, food/drink, local businesses, performance art, comedy, interviews with local people doing interesting things. Freelancing, like anything, has advantages and disadvantages. I really enjoy getting out to meet new creative people, learn about new things, and see some behind the scenes stuff. I’ve never had to write a story that I didn’t want to work on. That said, freelancing is often a roll of the dice and sometimes stressful and frustrating.
Anyway, two short articles– super easy! I could open up two laptops and type both these suckers out at the same time! But for some unknown reason, it really burned me out. A couple other small things happened– nothing terrible, nothing earth shattering, but the combination of a few irritations and failures made me incredibly bitter, mentally exhausted, and in serious doubt that I have any legit skill or talent by Tuesday evening. I looked at my writing projects in development– there’s about 5– and I just saw wheels spinning, kicking up dirt. What a long week…wait, it’s Tuesday?…ah shit. Non-fiction writer’s block is different than the fiction version, but it is a thing.
I didn’t have any other deadlines on the horizon, so I decided to choose the best possible option for that particular time and place I was in, which was to fuck off for the rest of the week. This is not something I do often, but I got to tell you, sometimes you need to use a well placed FUCK IT.
Writing is a tough business. There’s quite a few people I’ve met who have given up on the writing thing because of the painful, intimidating gauntlet of rejection– the cold, uncaring void that will drain the pages right out of you, the struggle to find the right words. My experience has been that writing is a practice of love, pain, humility, patience, fun, grief, the highs of accomplishment, the lows of self-doubt, and much more.
I make a lot lists to keep my writing on track, but I threw them all out last week. I sure as hell didn’t do any writing. I cleaned my office, I planted some seedlings, I went for walks and thought about life, I did the dishes, I had some drinks and watched some TV. On Monday, I got moving again– slowly. It was time to get back into the game. I guess, for better or worse, I’m a writer.
Here is my 2 cent writing advice– you will want to quit, you will think you suck, you will want to burn it. Don’t. When you hit a wall, take a break if you need to, but don’t give up– dig under it, climb over it, bounce off of it, crash through it like the Kool-Aid Man. Oh yeaaaah!
Looking forward to future projects/ events really helps me not give up. Here’s some positive things coming up for me:
–Tea’s Weird Week podcast, season 2– soon, working on it. Should be back in a couple weeks. Check out the podcast page for links to season 1 on your favorite podcast platforms: https://teakrulos.com/teas-weird-week-podcast-4/
-Milwaukee Press Club Awards– I’m one of the finalists in the “short hard news” category, they’ll be announcing in a virtual event May 19 whether I got the gold, silver, or bronze. I’m honored to be nominated.
–Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories & Sketches is a collection of short stories I wrote about a greasy spoon/drugstore I worked at in my youth. It’ll be out next year from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.
-Like I said, I got several writing projects in development, though nothing sold or on deadline yet. We’ll see what happens with all that.
With that, I’m going to move on to some hopefully wall-free writing while I’m still “on.”
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The Tea’s Weird Week podcast is on “vacation” as we’re trying to catch up on ideas for future podcast episodes as well as getting our Patreon rolling– check it out, lots of very cool perks at a number of affordable levels: www.patreon.com/teasweirdweek
This week I just thought I’d share a pretty crazy story I ran into while doing some light research. Like other authors, I always have a few irons in the fire– I’m working on developing a couple of non-fiction book ideas, as well as a couple of fiction ones. I’m not sure what is going to be completed first (if completed at all) or what might roll out when, but one of these fiction manuscripts is a horror novel that includes a plot involving sleep paralysis and sleep deprivation.
I was looking into the latter when I found the story of Peter Tripp, a top 40 DJ who decided to be involved with a publicity stunt. He agreed to DJ live on WMGM (where he had a show called “Your Hits of the Week”) for 200 hours (a little over 8 days) straight without sleep from a glass DJ booth in Times Square (so people could go and see him, like a sleep deprived fish in an aquarium) as a fundraiser for March of Dimes. This “Wake-A-Thon” was in late January, 1959.
It was somewhere around 120 hours into the “Wake-A-Thon” that Tripp went from extremely drowsy to beginning to lose his damn mind. He suffered from hallucinations– at one point he began to see spiders crawling out of his shoes and mice and kittens scurrying around his feet inside the studio. He had a hotel room next door where he could freshen up and there he hallucinated flames shooting out of a dresser drawer. In another instance he believed a scientist sent to observe him was an undertaker after his body, so he ran out of the studio into Times Square and had to wrangled back in. He grew paranoid of the scientists who were observing him and thought they were in league against him, trying to poison him. He had difficulty reciting the alphabet.
The scientists monitored Tripp’s brain waves and found that his hallucination freak outs mirrored the 90 minute REM cycles he brain would experience if he was asleep, so his brain was dreaming while he was awake. The last 60 hours or so were only maintained by an administered stimulant. After he hit 200 hours, he crashed out– he reportedly slept 13 hours, 13 minutes.
Like any bad idea, the “Wake-a-Thon” craze spread to other DJs looking to duplicate Tripp’s publicity. Dozens of DJs attempted to beat Tripp’s record in 1959 and into the 60s.
Poor Peter Tripp! As one report notes, “it is often reported that the sleep-deprivation marathon had a long-term effect on his personality.” Tripp view himself as an “imposter,” what I’m interpreting to mean something like a Twin Peaks doppelganger. His marriage (one of four) fell apart shortly after the Wake-a-Thon. The next year, he was also hit for being part of the “payola” scandal, where DJs received money for playing certain songs to make them a hit. His radio DJ career drifted around California and ended up in Ohio before he quit the biz in 1967. He died in 2000 at age 73.
Now I think I’ll go take a nap.
Inglis-Arkell, Esther. “The Sleep Deprivation Publicity Stunt That Drove One Man Crazy,” Gizmodo.com.
tenwatts.blogspot.com, “DJ Marathon Stay-Awake Records.”
Rolls, Geoff. “The Men Who Didn’t Sleep: Peter Tripp and Eric Gardner,” chapter from Classic Case Studies in Psychology.
And this short doc:
You can find the Tea’s Weird Week podcast here: https://teakrulos.com/teas-weird-week-podcast-4/
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