I thought of the idea for this column when I saw a ridiculous (but kinda awesome) theory circulating on Facebook the other day that Jimi Hendrix and Morgan Freeman are one and the same. I’m wrapping up a book on conspiracy culture titled American Madness, which doesn’t delve too much into music theories, although there is one about Les Claypool of Primus (no, sadly it doesn’t involve playing “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” backwards). Maybe I’ll write more in-depth on all this someday, but meanwhile here’s a list of some conspiracy theories and urban legends involving musicians.
(1) Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire and became Morgan Freeman.
As I mentioned, this story kicked off the idea for this week’s column (I added the flaming guitar bit myself as a good conspiracy needs embellishment). The theory suggests that Hendrix faked his death in 1970 and rebranded himself as Academy Award winning actor Freeman. As Snopes notes, the two do have a passing resemblance, but Morgan had already launched his acting career by 1964 while Hendrix was still touring, so we’re going to need to add time/space travel to this theory for it to make sense.
(2) Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil.
This is the most classic music myth I can think of. I’m adding Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson, a biography on the blues musician (from one of my publishers, Chicago Review Press) to my winter reading list (as soon as I get through my fall one). Johnson, the story goes, was a mediocre guitar player until he disappeared from the juke joints he frequented for a period of time. When he returned, his music skills had increased incredibly and the story was that he sold his soul at the crossroads for his new abilities to old Hornhead himself. The stories and Johnson’s songs like “Me and the Devil Blues” and “Hellhound on My Trail” forever gave him a supernatural reputation.
(3) Elvis is alive, baby!
This is the first music conspiracy or legend I was exposed to as a kid, bored and waiting in line at the supermarket and reading the headlines of tabloids. The trashy reports of celebrity affairs had no interest to me, but the sensational tales of Elvis faking his death and being spotted at a 7-11 and numerous other locations did. An American classic– long live the king!
(4) But Paul is dead (and other doppelganger replacements)!
“Paul is dead” is such a beautifully complex conspiracy. There’s so much, so I’ll just try to cruise through the main talking points: Paul McCartney, the theory says, dies in a car crash in 1966. Afraid to lose their fan base, The Beatles and management decided to do the logical thing and replace him with a Paul McCartney doppelganger. But their guilt gnawed at them, so they dropped a number of clues hidden in plain sight in their song lyrics and album cover art, the most heavily dissected being the front and back cover of 1969’s Abbey Road. There’s a run down of the eight pieces of hidden symbolism on the album covers here: https://www.biography.com/news/beatles-abbey-road-album-cover-anniversary
Since then, there have been several other doppelganger theories, including one that says that Miley Cyrus died of an overdose and was replaced by a body double in 2010, that Avril Lavigne was quietly replaced with a clone in 2003, and that Andrew W.K. is actually several people who are franchised out to play the role, maybe in the same way Andy Warhol would have an impersonator show up at art events.
I recommend listening to my friends on See You on the Other Side podcast. They have an episode titled “Avril is Dead: The Strange Case of Pop Culture Doppelgangers” where they discuss Paul, Avril, and Andrew as well as wrestler the Ultimate Warrior and more.
(5) Kurt Cobain was murdered.
This was a conspiracy I watched play out as I was a Nirvana fan and a high schooler when Kurt Cobain killed himself. I found his death shocking and I experienced some sad disbelief. I think some conspiracies form because music is so important to us. When a musician dies before their time we can’t accept the grim reality. They were larger than life, larger than afterlife.
Over the years that followed Cobain’s death, a lot of “evidence” was hodge-podged together to suggest he was murdered, and most often the theories point at Courtney Love as the perpetrator. About six months after Cobain’s 1994 death, I went to see Hole play with Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails at the Riverside Theater. Some asshat was yelling “you killed Kurt!” at Love between songs. People needed to blame his death on someone and she was the convenient villain.
Shock rocker Eldon Hoke aka “El Duce” of The Mentors (and The Screamers), claimed he was hired by Love as the hitman (though he definitely shouldn’t be taken seriously). Two days after shooting an interview for the total crap conspiracy doc Kurt & Courtney, El Duce was found dead on the railroad tracks, decapitated, and with a high alcohol content. Of course this only led to more conspiracies.
(6) The 27 Club.
Kurt was then added to an elite theory of “The 27 Club,” a mystical group of musicians who died at that age, including Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and later Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Because of this there’s some mysticism about the number, a time when musicians are supposedly more vulnerable as they are on the cusp between still being considered young and about to turn a more “adult age.” But of course many great musicians have died at all ages.
(7) Who killed Tupac and Biggie…or are they still alive?
A lot of conspiracies linger because there aren’t satisfactory answers for closure, the JFK assassination being a prime example. Rap rivals Tupac Shakur and the Notorious BIG were murdered in 1996 and 1997, respectively, with both cases being unsolved and open. The list of alleged suspects who participated in the killings include Suge Knight, Puff Daddy, the LAPD, the FBI, and the Illuminati. Like Elvis, there are also legends that both rappers faked death, though most are typically about Tupac. You can find claims of people allegedly spotting Tupac in Cuba, Malaysia, and Somalia, among other places.
(8) Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando fled New York in a rental car road trip after 9/11.
This is a good story, but has never been proven. The tall tale says that Michael Jackson was performing in New York the week of the 9/11 attacks (that is true) and that his guests there for the show included Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando (also true). After the 9/11 attacks, a panicked Jackson rented a car and the three celebrities begin a madcap road trip toward LA. They got as far as Ohio (stopping frequently at KFCs to fuel Brando with fried chicken), before ditching the car for a private jet to California. This story only emerged in 2011, conveniently after all three of the alleged participants had died. Is the story true? Probably not. A former assistant to Taylor says she stayed for several days in New York after the attack. Another source says Jackson and entourage bunked in New Jersey before charting a private plane to head West.
Zadie Smith wrote a great short fiction based on this urban legend for the New Yorker titled “Escape from New York.”
(9) In the Air Tonight
I’m including this one because this is a myth I believed myself for many years. I accepted the story I heard about Phil Collin’s famous hit “In the Air Tonight.” I thought the song was about, as Eminem described it “that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drowning/ but didn’t then Phil saw it all/ then at a show he found him” Turns out the song isn’t about a death by drowning or any of that, but just Phil expressing his feels about a divorce he was going through.
Yawwwwwn dude. Conspiracy is sometimes way more interesting than reality.
There are many more ones I’m missing– the one about Ace of Base being white supremacists and some interesting rumors about Marilyn Manson, so I got a feeling someday this column will get a sequel.
If you’re in the midwest, tickets for Milwaukee Krampusnacht are on sale now. It’s an awesomely creepy and cool event. More info: www.milwaukeeparacon.com/krampus
My latest book is Apocalypse Any Day Now, available here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow
I’m looking forward to seeing The Holzer Files, which premiers tonight on Travel Channel. The show stars Alexandra Holzer, daughter of pioneering ghost researcher Hans Holzer. Alexandra and her team reopen her father’s case files in new investigations. I had a chance to interview Alexandra at the Chicago Ghost Con in 2014 and wrote an article on her for the March 2015 issue of Fortean Times. This article appeared in print only, so I’m glad to share it here online for the first time.
One thing that really pops out at me re-reading this now is that when I spoke to Alexandra, she was concerned her father’s legacy was being forgotten. I’m sure her new show will help prevent that. Congrats Alexandra and team!
THE GHOST HUNTER’S DAUGHTER (originally appeared in Fortean Times, March 2015)
By Tea Krulos
“How many of you know about Hans Holzer?” Alexandra Holzer asks. She’s crowded in an elevator with about fifteen people at the Chicago Ghost Conference, being held at Carl Schurz High School. The elevator is heading up to the fifth floor for a short investigation of the school’s music room, where there are claims of spirits lurking in the corner and tinkering around on the piano.
Her question is greeted with an awkward silence.
“Oh boy,” she says, disappointed, and looks at the elevator wall. Later I ask her if she thinks this was just a shy silence.
“Maybe.” She answers. “His recognition is mixed and that’s not good enough for me. It’s got to be higher.”
This lack of familiarity is disheartening because if there ever was a Mount Rushmore of “ghost hunters,” Alexandra’s father—Dr. Hans Holzer—would definitely have his hawk-like features chiseled among them.
Hans Holzer was born in 1920 in Vienna, Austria. He studied archaeology and history at the University of Vienna, but with World War II on the horizon, his family determined they would move to New York City in 1938. Thanks in part to an uncle who told him ghost stories, Holzer had an interest in the supernatural since he was a young boy, and went on to study all things related to the paranormal. He authored more than 140 books on ghosts, UFOs, the afterlife, ESP, witchcraft, and other related topics. He also taught parapsychology at the New York Institute of Technology.
“During the 70s and 80s, he was the ‘ghost man.’” Alexandra explains. She says her father’s collection of artifacts related to his studies and circle of friends involved in the paranormal field made the Holzer house “like growing up in a living museum.” Her mother was also unique. An artist and descendant of Catherine the Great, Countess Catherine Buxhoeveden married Holzer shortly before his first book, Ghost Hunter, was published in 1964. Countess Buxhoeveden joined him in his travels and used her artistic talent to do illustrations for his early books. They divorced when Alexandra was 13-years-old.
Alexandra became aware that her father’s interests might be termed “unusual” at a young age and it took a while before she grew to appreciate it.
“I was about eight years old when I figured out he wasn’t normal,” Alexandra smiles, “because when I started going to school my mother would wrap up my father’s books as gifts. Books on witches, warlocks, UFOs, Amityville Horror. The teachers would open up the gifts in the classroom and all the kid’s eyes grew, the teacher’s mouths dropped, and I sank down really low in my chair like I wanted to hide. I said ‘Oh my God, that’s him? No!’”
Rebel Without a Ghost
As she grew into a young woman, Alexandra went through a rebellious phase and tried to escape her father’s eerie legacy.
“I ran to art school to get away from my father because I thought he was weird. I wanted to get away from the paranormal and be with creative people. I really didn’t care, I was too young. When you’re at a certain age, you don’t get what your parent does, even if it’s as weird as that. He’d say ‘oh look I’m on TV!’ And I’d say, ‘yeah, that’s nice.’ I just didn’t get it.”
Alexandra might not have been getting it yet, but others were. Hans Holzer became renowned as the foremost authority on things related to ghosts. His expertise was used on shows like the classic In Search Of… and subsequent television shows and documentaries dedicated to the paranormal. Another contribution to pop culture Dr. Holzer helped inspire was the beloved horror-comedy Ghostbusters. Dan Aykroyd, who wrote and starred in the movie, has said he was a Hans Holzer fan and used reports of his investigations as the seed for the film idea.
“I became obsessed with Hans Holzer, the greatest ghost hunter ever,” Aykroyd said. “That’s when the idea of my film Ghostbusters was born.”
Dr. Holzer’s most famous case that he worked on was the alleged haunting of the Lutz family on Long Island, New York, commonly known as the Amityville Horror.
The Lutz family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville thirteen months after the home was the scene of a gruesome murder of the former tenants, the DeFeo family. On November 13, 1974, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo, Jr., the oldest child, systemically worked his way through the house in the middle of the night, shooting his mother and father and four siblings in their beds. After the Lutz family moved in, they claimed that they were terrorized by entities in December 1975- January 1976, and abandoned the house just 28 days after moving in. The incident spawned a bestselling book (The Amityville Horror: A True Story by Jay Anson, 1977) followed by a long string of additional books on the case, Hollywood movies (11 to date, with a 12th slated for 2015), and documentaries.
Dr. Holzer traveled to the house in January 1977. He was joined in his investigation by medium Ethel Johnson Meyers. In addition to interviewing and research, Dr. Holzer often brought a medium with him on a case.
“A scientific investigation must have a well-trained transmedium for communication. It is the only way,” Dr. Holzer stated in an interview.
In the Amityville house, Meyers claimed that she had identified the house’s angry spirit: Shinnecock Indian Chief Rolling Thunder, which helped Holzer put together a theory that the house had been built on Indian sacred grounds, the cause of the malicious haunting.
The Amityville Historical Society has refuted claims that the house is built on Indian burial grounds. Other researchers who have investigated the Amityville case say that it is an opportunistic hoax contrived by the Lutz family and their lawyer, embellished and exaggerated to help make money off of selling a good ghost story.
Dr. Holzer wrote both non-fiction (Murder in Amityville,1979) and fiction (The Amityville Curse, 1981, and The Secret of Amityville, 1985) about the case.
Other popular non-fiction volumes Dr. Holzer has written on the topic of ghosts include Ghosts I’ve Met (1965) Hans Holzer’s Haunted Houses: A Pictorial Register of the World’s Most Interesting Ghost Houses (1971) and Great American Ghost Stories (1990).
“Probably my late 20s I started to mature a bit and when I started to see the people he’d have over, I’d think, ‘these are really interesting people, they’re very spiritual, some are a bit wacky, but there’s something to what he does.’ But I didn’t have a pinnacle moment of understanding who he was until my 30s, where I was like ‘ok, I get it.’ Then I had my own awakening and epiphany and it just kind of vibed at that point, so I’d say it took almost two decades to get to that point.”
Alexandra says that epiphany came when her aunt passed on.
“At her service, I felt her come over and hug me. My whole body went warm and I’m sitting there crying hysterically because I didn’t like it, I didn’t understand it. I felt she was hugging me because she knew out of everybody except my mother I was destroyed (by her death). I knew it was her, I don’t know how to explain it, I just knew. That flipped me.”
Alexandra says the experience helped inspire her to follow both investigating and writing. She wrote a sci-fi/ fantasy novel, Lady Ambrosia: Secret Past Revealed (2007), and a memoir of her family, Growing Up Haunted: A Ghostly Memoir (2008).
Dr. Hans Holzer died on April 26, 2009. After his death, Alexandra stepped up actively investigating, using the family formula for ghost hunting, which she calls the “Holzer Method.” Alexandra runs her group Hunt With Holzer with fellow investigator David Lawson. “We create events with people and give that personal contact and have groups investigate using my father’s method. We learn about other people’s methods and keep it unified, help and learn and move on and document.”
Back at the Carl Schurz High School investigation, her group has moved from the 5th-floor music room to a smaller music room filled with rows of keyboards on the 4th floor. An electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) session is happening. Investigators are asking questions in the dark room, hoping to elicit a response. After a minute of silence, Alexandra addresses the group, telling them that she is still in communication with her father.
“My father comes through when we’re doing things,” she informs. “So if anyone wants to ask if Hans Holzer is here, it’s actually pretty normal. I mean it’s a little paradoxical, but feel free to ask him a question.”
Alexandra is seated near the teacher’s desk at the head of the classroom. On the desk in front of her is the REM-pod, a device that measures fluctuations in electromagnetic fields. Triggered lights and sounds on the device is said to be an indicator of a potential ghostly presence.
“Hans Holzer if you’re here, can you put that green light on?” A participant asks from the darkness.
Silence. The REM-pod light does not turn green.
“You should ask him, he’ll listen to you.” Another participant directs to Alexandra.
“He did not listen to me in life!” She laughs. “You think in the afterlife he’s going to listen to me? Really?” The group breaks into laughter in the darkness.
“Daddy you want to play with some lights?” Alexandra asks. The REM-pod remains idle.
“Do you feel he follows you around?” Another participant asks Alexandra.
“He does. He’s a pain.” A second of silence. “Did someone just hum?”
“I heard it!” A participant says. “I heard hmmm from over here.”
The group listens to an audio recorder and hear a ghostly sound they determine is an EVP they’ve captured of a girl saying “daddy.”
“It’s basically combining science with metaphysics,” Alexandra explains, describing the Holzer Method. “My father had his predecessors and everybody was very scientific, and then he had the mediums and intuitiveness. Although he was a skeptic, he believed if you combined the two, you’d have better results, so that’s when the method was born, it was his brainchild to say we’re going to do it this way and we’re going to do it that way and we’re going to get more data so that we can understand what happens when we die and not everything is science and not everything is spiritual, there’s a combination of the two.”
In addition to Hunt with Holzer, Alexandra visualizes a documentary or feature film based on her father’s life. She says it’s a longtime goal of hers, one she spoke to her father about, that she’d like to see visualized. She feels Holzer’s place in history has been forgotten and overshadowed and hopes such a project will help her father’s legacy live on.
Alexandra Holzer’s website is alexandraholzer.com
#ClownWatch2019: September 23, 2019, approximately 9:30 PM: My friends at the Singular Fortean Society reported on a clown encounter on a rural Arkansas road. A vehicle of teens on their way to Pottsville Lake found the clown digging at the side of the road with a shovel, yelled at it and backed away as the clown stormed toward them. Actual clown about town or staged video? Read more and see the clip here: https://www.singularfortean.com/news/2019/9/30/creepy-clown-caught-on-camera-by-arkansas-teens
Links and Shout Outs
-If you want to read more about the lives of ghost hunters and other paranormal investigators, check out my book Monster Hunters: https://www.chicagoreviewpress.com/monster-hunters-products-9781613749814.php
-Great conversation on the Ghostly Talk podcast out of Michigan with hosts Scott L and author Amberrose Hammond. It was a nice way to start October and we talked about all of my published work so far. You can listen to the episode here: https://ghostlytalk.com/episode-91-tea-krulos
–Kelly Anderson Dance Theatre is performing “The END is HERE and that’s ok” in Milwaukee at Danceworks this Saturday and Sunday. It’s being described as “brilliantly funny and meaningful.” They’ll be giving away copies of my book Apocalypse Any Day Now at each performance! Here’s more info: http://www.kellyandersondancetheatre.com/tour-the-end-is-here-and-thats-ok.html
.-Thanks to Old Baraboo Inn for having me as part of the World’s Largest Ghost Hunt last week. I gave a presentation titled “Chasing the Ghost of Al Capone.” Always a fun time there!
Some of my birthdays have been memorable and others mundane. I had a birthday yesterday, and I spent it doing what I love doing best– sitting around in pajamas, drinking coffee, reviewing a manuscript I wrote. I have a book out next year from Feral House titled American Madness. It’s a non-fiction that tells the action-packed story of a conspiracy theorist I met and the prevalence of conspiracy culture in America. There’s still work to be done, but a lot of progress has happened on the book over the last few months.
Sitting at home reading over my work was great, but my really fun birthdays have been getting out in the field. Here’s two memorable examples:
2013: I spent my 36th birthday in Portland, Maine where I interviewed cryptozoologist and author Loren Coleman at the International Cryptozoology Museum. What a wonderful place to be! I wrote about the experience as the first chapter of my book Monster Hunters, titled “The Monster Hunter and His Museum.” Loren named the book as the top of the “Best Cryptozoology Books of 2015” list and told me that the chapter was “required reading” for new staff, volunteers, and docents.
2017: It was two days after my birthday, but I spent my 40th birthday preparing to voyage out to the desert to attend Wasteland Weekend, a post-apocalyptic festival. One of the most fun experiences I’ve had. I witnessed music, Thunderdome fights, a post-apocalyptic swimsuit contest, and much more, which I wrote out for a chapter of my book Apocalypse Any Day Now titled “Wastelanders.” I’ve really wanted to go back ever since, but this year my travel budget is tied up for a trip I’m doing to Dallas in November. Hopefully, in 2020 I can return to the Waste.
If you’d like to support me on my birthday and help me go on more wild and crazy adventures, the best thing you can do is buy or support my books:
And look for links in 2020 to my new books. Wisconsin Legends & Lore is going to be a cool little book out from History Press and American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theory Hijacked American Consciousness will be out August 2020 from Feral House.
You can also buy me a birthday coffee here: www.buymeacoffee.com/TeaKrulos
“You get what anybody gets– you get a lifetime,” Neil Gaiman, Sandman
“But that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever,” Motörhead, “The Ace of Spades”
I recently got a nice review for my book Apocalypse Any Day Now in the Lexington Dispatch. But listen to how this reviewer describes me: “a middle aged freelance journalist from Wisconsin.” Middle aged? Ahhh shit. Well, I guess it’s true, because in just a few days, it’ll be my 43rd birthday. But what if this wasn’t middle age for me?
Learning about something new, fringe, and strange is one of my favorite things, so it was jackpot time when I found out that local legend Kristan T. Harris is a candidate for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. The party’s main platform is to extend human life by hundreds and thousands of years, with the eventual goal of eternal life.
I wrote an article on Harris’s campaign for Milwaukee Record, in an article published today: “Long Live Candidate Harris, Milwaukee’s U.S. Transhumanist Party presidential hopeful.”
I think the ideas put forth by U.S. Transhumanist Party are interesting and I certainly love to see new alternative political parties. In fact, I took the ten seconds it takes to join the party by Google form here: https://transhumanist-party.org/membership/
Despite that, I don’t really subscribe to the party’s main platform. Here’s the thing– I don’t want to extend my life by hundreds or thousands or infinite years. Hellllll no. I am way too tired of your bullshit to have to deal with it for a millennium. I was young, I am apparently now middle aged, I will (hopefully) get old and then I will die. I’m totally fine with that timeline and I’m not afraid of it.
I’ve seen brilliant, beautiful people die way sooner than they should have while rotten jerks seem to live on forever. Do you really want some piece of shit who gets away with beating his wife and kids and makes life miserable for his family, co-workers, and the general public to celebrate his 600th birthday?
I also don’t feel life extension would be in the top ten issues we are facing today. Who wants to live forever on a planet where the environment is being completely destroyed, our oceans are filled with garbage, climate is spiraling out of control, children are locked up in cages on the border, and we have a killer clown as President?
That being said, good luck to Candidate Harris and the Transhumanist Party. Their online presidential primary starts on Sept. 21: www.transhumanist-party.org
I’m going to be at the Old Baraboo Inn for the World’s Largest Ghost Hunt on Sept.28, where I’ll be talking about the ghost of Al Capone!: https://www.facebook.com/events/379959039385127/
Tea’s Weird Week is posted here every Thursday.
September has been really busy, as it seems every September is. Major event tomorrow night and Saturday– the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. If you’re in the general Wisconsin area, hope to see you there. More info: https://milwaukeeparacon.com/milwaukee-para-con-2018/
Besides that, I’ve been working day jobs, freelancing articles, and working hard on finishing book manuscripts. It’s good, busy is good. But sometimes, what can one do in a situation like this but to dream of crisp fall days, drinking a hot caffeinated beverage in pajamas and reading a good book? Today I thought I’d share my fall reading list, I’m looking forward to these. Will I finish all these titles by the end of fall? Probably not. But here’s what’s on the docket.
Let me know if you’ve read any of these.
(1.) Feed by Mira Grant
This is the fall selection for the dystopian book club I founded, the Apocalypse Blog Book Club. I’m about halfway through and enjoying it. It’s a zombie apocalypse with a journalism twist. Fun stuff. Join the club on Facebook, this is our fall selection and we choose a winter selection next month.
(2.) Someday Jennifer by Risto Pakarinen
Risto is a cool dude and an editor at Scandinavian Traveler, where I’ve done some freelance work. It’s a novel with an 80s nostalgia theme, is about all I know. I pre-ordered it, the English translation is out later this month. Looking forward to it!
(3.) Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons by Kris Newby
I mentioned this in a previous Tea’s Weird Week, where I talked about programs like Operation: Big Itch and other insect experiments. I’m interested to read this as it lays out the theory that Lyme Disease was developed by a government program to create “weaponized ticks.” That’s pretty fucked up.
(4.) Good Time Party Girl: The Notorious Life of Dirty Helen Cromwell, 1886-1969 by Helen Cromwell and Robert Dougherty
One of the reasons I’m thrilled to have a book out with Feral House next year (American Madness, August 2020) is that their catalog is just bulletproof. I could grab any book they’ve put out and find it interesting. That’s certainly the case with Good Time Party Girl, the autobiography of a notorious underworld madame, “Dirty Helen” Cromwell, who operated The Sunflower Inn in the 1930s-50s here in Milwaukee. I love this type of history.
(5.) The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Probably about a year ago I asked for recommendations for an epic fantasy series. For some reason I seem to really want to read/ see fantasy stuff in fall and winter (I watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy every December). Two of my friends suggested this series by Patrick Rothfuss. I read the first book in the series, The Name of the Wind, last winter, and it was great. I was glad to learn Rothfuss is a fellow Wisconsinite (Stevens Point). I started on book 2, but only got about 100 pages in when I was swept away with other stuff.
(6.) The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America by Jim Acosta
I picked this up when it was first out on a whim, but haven’t cracked it open yet. I still have a romantic vision of journalism and want to read this account of journalism in the Trump era.
(7.) The Eight Doctors by Terrance Dicks
If you didn’t know, I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, have been since I was a kid. Some of the early novels I eagerly read were the Doctor Who novelizations that were cranked out by Terrance Dicks, who died this month. I thought it might be fun to revisit his work. I singled out this one because it was an anniversary special of a crossover that never happened on screen. However, I see this book getting dragged mercilessly in reviews (which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like it) and so I might find a better representation of his work… or maybe just skip it. Sometimes nostalgia is best left in your head. In any case, RIP Terrance Dicks, and thanks for your part in me becoming a young, avid reader.
(8.) Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
Oh yeah, why does this one keep getting lost in the shuffle? Started reading it like two years ago, then boom boom deadline, put it aside, put it further aside. What the hell dude?
Milwaukee Paranormal Conference is this weekend: https://milwaukeeparacon.com/milwaukee-para-con-2018/
Tea’s Weird Week switches this week from Fridays to every Thursday afternoon.
While working on my book Apocalypse Any Day Now, I researched zombies in pop culture. An interesting study from 2009, referenced in my book, laid out the data that shows we have more vampire themed movies and entertainment during Democrat administrations, while we get more zombies during Republican ones. The study tallied the number of movies found in both genres dating back to the Eisenhower administration, and the results were overall pretty consistent.
Think of the great 80s Reagan era zombie movies like The Return of the Living Dead (1985). In 2005 (Bush’s second term) there were 158 zombie movies (vs 74 vampire themed movies). Anne Rice was popular in the Clinton era, the Interview with a Vampire movie was huge in 1994. The big hits of the Obama administration were those wretched Twilight movies (2008-2012).
Here’s a link to the original study: http://www.mrscienceshow.com/2009/05/correlation-of-week-zombies-vampires.html Several other sites have examined the theory. HuffPost has a video with some visual highlights HERE.
Some of the noteworthy films that don’t fit the trend make sense if you correlate the source material: both the World War Z film and the hit show The Walking Dead were released during the Obama administration, but the source material (the 2006 book and 2003 comic series, respectively) was written in the Bush era.
I’ve read different interpretations of this study. One says the trend reflects the fears of the party in power– Democrats fear a vampire-like parasitic aristocrat, while Republicans fear a zombie revolt of the poor and disenfranchised. The other theory (which I lean towards) is that the films tap into subconscious fears about the party in power.
The Democrat vampires are suave and sophisticated but deceptive, kinky neck-sucking sex fiends, often times foreigners (Transylvania isn’t sending their best), which plays into liberalphobia. Conservatives, meanwhile, are viewed as the brainless masses, a hate mob of rotten rednecks shuffling through a Wal-Mart.
Enter a new animal, President Donald J. Trump. He’s not a Democrat, but he’s not a typical Republican either. As such, I think a new (perhaps one time) cycle has displaced the vampire/ zombie rotation: the killer clown.
“Wait til they get a load of me,” the Joker says in Batman (1989), but the quote could have easily come from Trump.
While working on my reoccurring #ClownWatch2019 segment for this column, where I mention any strange real-life clown sightings, I noticed there are an awful lot of killer clown movies lately, especially this fall. Over the past couple years we’ve gotten a fair share of the genre: American Horror Story: Cult (2017), which quickly made the Trump/killer clown connection, It (2017), the fantastic Green Bay produced Gags The Clown (2018), Rob Zombie’s clown murder mayhem movie 31 (2018) and many low budget entries.
Up next over the next month we’ll see the return of monster clown Pennywise in It Chapter 2 (which premieres tomorrow, Sept.6), the origin of killer clown Joker (Oct.4), and yes, we’ve finally arrived here…Clownado (Sept.17). That last title pretty much sums up today’s politics in one word. There’s several other low budget productions trying to catch the crest of the killer clown wave– Clownface, ClownDoll, and just Clown are just a few I found on IMDB with 2019 release dates.
These films, like vampire and zombie features, are playing to fears of our times. In this case, it’s of a monster who is stupidly reckless and dangerously unpredictable.
Like Pennywise, Trump has a wild clownado of orange hair. Note that Pennywise (and imitators) carries a red balloon the same color as Trump’s droopy, clownish tie or as a MAGA hat. Trump has a sleeve filled with dirty tricks and his administration is a clown car of chaos. Buying Greenland for a new secret lair, nuking a hurricane– clearly the mindset of a Joker. When Trump uses a “magic’ marker to defiantly insist that Alabama is in a hurricane zone when it isn’t, he hopes he can change reality, like a cartoonish clown drawing a door on a wall and then opening it to make a quick getaway.
Trump’s unhinged decision making on who to fire, who to threaten, and what diplomatic ties to sever are not of a politician or a businessman, but of a killer clown dancing and stabbing people in a haunted house.
It’s easy to laugh at his childish behavior, ranting and stomping his feet about everything from inauguration sizes to hurricane zones, but then comes the terror in realizing his full potential for disaster, an unfolding horror story.
Welcome to the clownpocalypse of our times.
My book Apocalypse Any Day Now got a nice, short review from Skeptical Inquirer. Thanks for believing in me, skeptics! They say:
“Krulos returns with another equally relevant and interesting look at the world of American survivalism, doomsday cults, religious prophets, and the like. The tone is more breezy than scholarly (with more than a few references to zombie apocalypses, for example) but the book offers insight into the mentality of conspiracy theorists and doomsday prophets.”
You can find the book here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow
Milwaukee Paranormal Conference is happening Sept.13-14: www.milwaukeeparacon.com
Fall time! I love it! To me Fall runs from exactly September 1 to Krampusnacht (December 5) and that’s just the way the Krulosian calendar rolls. It’s a time when I feel I traditionally feel highly productive and filled with memorable days. It’s when everything– coffee, beer, cookies, candles, etc. are suddenly “pumpkin spiced.” Mmm! Just kidding, I don’t like pumpkin spice. That hot apple cider though [chef kissing the air emoticon].
Here’s a run down of what I got going on this fall.
Milwaukee Paranormal Conference (Sept.13-14): excited to be back after skipping last year. Things kick off with Friday the 13th Fest VI: Haunted House at Walker’s Point Music Hall, and then a day of conference at Alverno College on the 14th. Instead of our own after party, we are encouraging people to attend the wonderful Night Carnival.
Milwaukee Ghost Walks (Sept-Dec.): Fall time is of course also ghost season and you’ll find me leading the Third Ward walking tour most Fridays and Saturdays (as well as other dates) for Milwaukee Ghost Walks. In November and December we’ll do the new Ghost of Christmas Past tour. I’ll also be running my own Riverwest Ghost Tour a couple times in October.
My Birthday (Sept.25): Getting old! Actually, I don’t complain about it. Age isn’t a bad journey.
World’s Largest Ghost Hunt, Old Baraboo Inn (Sept.28): As I discussed in a previous column, I’ll be visiting my friends at Old Baraboo Inn and giving a presentation on the life, lore, and ghost stories related to Al Capone.
Halloween (Oct.31): I mean do I have to say anything? It’s just the best.
Undisclosed conspiracy related trip to Dallas (Nov.14-24): I am so thrilled to be wrapping up a book (American Madness) about conspiracy theory for the outstanding Feral House. Before I turn it in, I’m going on one more adventure to Conspiracyland, or in this case, Dallas. I’d elaborate, but you’ll read more in the book.
Milwaukee Krampusnacht (Dec.5): We already have such an amazing response to the event and lots of fun stuff planned. Tickets go on sale sometime between September 16-18. The best holiday celebration in Milwaukee!
Somewhere in there I’ll also be turning in my manuscript to American Madness, and another shorter project, Wisconsin Legends & Lore for The History Press. What a year!
After December 5 I think I’ll be taking a much needed holiday break.
08/27/2019: Rahmeek Younger snuck a clown mask (Pennywise, as featured in the upcoming It Volume 2), gun, and 50 bullets into the Brooklyn Human Resources Administration building. After a visitor spotted the arsenal, 911 was called. Younger tried to flee the scene but was tazed and detained. [via Daily Beast]
Next week: #ClownWatch2019 reports on the sociology of horror movies and what all of these upcoming killer clown movies mean.
On Sunday I made an appearance on Eye 94 (which broadcasts on Lumpen Radio in Chicago) to discuss my book Apocalypse Any Day Now. It was a really fun, engaging talk and I especially like the readings from the book they provided, with as Shanna van Volt narrating and International Anthem Recording Co. providing the back-up music.
Listen to the show here: https://www.mixcloud.com/lumpenradio/eye-94-8-25-2019-tea-krulos
Speaking of, you can find Apocalypse Any Day Now here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow or wherever books are sold.
I put it forth to Facebook to ask what I should write about in the column this week, and the subject of scooter chaos came up. They do seem to be everywhere and opinions are mixed. Some are saying they’re just stupid fun while others are quoting J. Jonah Jameson and shouting that they’re “a goddamn menace!” After a failed trial attempt last year, the Bird scooters returned and Lime and Spin appeared too, filling the sidewalks with 1,050 scooters.
My own opinion is a little mixed. I’m all for public transportation options. And they do look fun– just last night I was riding the bus and we passed by a group of about a dozen teenagers riding scooters together in the bike lane, and it looked like they were having a blast, laughing and talking. It reminded me of my youth, when me and a group of friends would ride skateboards or bikes or just walk around, often with no particular destination in mind.
But I’ve also seen some reckless scooter driving (Urban Milwaukee reports over 100 complaints of scooter violations, including collisions with pedestrians, were reported within a couple weeks and Marquette and UWM recently banned them from campus). I think a couple of the problems here is that the training and test ride on these things is live and in public. You just jump on and learn how to ride it while you’re barreling down the sidewalk or street. You learn to drive a car in an empty parking lot, you learn to drive a scooter on Water St. and Wisconsin Ave. With a max speed of 15mph, the scooters are too fast for a sidewalk and too slow for a street…or at least too slow for I-94.
On Monday three were fined for riding Lime scooters on I-94 near the Marquette interchange.
CBS 58 reports: “The scooter riders told deputies they were visiting from Texas and were using their GPS to navigate to the Harley Davidson Museum on the scooters.”
But what if there was a way people could have their scooters without running over our toes? [hippie voice] What if we could, like, ride our Lime scooters through the cosmos, man? Wouldn’t that be faaaar out?
Coincidentally (or was it?) my friends at the Singular Fortean Society issued a report on Wednesday of a man they interviewed from Springfield, Illinois, who said he had an encounter with a “humanoid flying a scooter with no wheels” in the night sky as he walked home in the woods on some railroad tracks.
The witness, Mike, told Singular Fortean Society (you can read the whole report HERE) described what he saw in the night sky:
“It looked like a person, like a big person, on a scooter; I swear I could almost see the handlebars on the thing. That’s what my recollection was. A scooter, with no wheels, with some big guy, probably six foot, 250 pounds or something like that. It looked like a little Honda scooter, and it looked like it had a little light on one side of it. I remember seeing something shining, like on the front of it—kind of like a headlight,” recounted Mike.
I know what you’re thinking. This is amazing and we need to capture this ET tech, reverse engineer it, and franchise it ASAP to cash in on the scooter craze. But what should we named the company? Here’s the poll:
Winning name will be announced in next week’s column!
#ClownWatch2019: Continuing our reporting of strange clown sightings– outbreak in New England!
07/21/2019, 2:46 pm: Brookline, Massachusetts police blotter report of “a topless woman wearing clown makeup and an apron, standing in front of a building.” [via brookline.wickedlocal.com]
08/19/2019: USA Today reports that a New Jersey woman witnessed a plush doll of Pennywise (from It) fall into her yard. The doll had letters and numbers written on the forehead, which, according to the witness, “looked culty.” The police were called, the doll burned, and the frightened woman slept with a knife for protection.
Looks like a kid with a good throwing arm is patting themselves on the back for a prank well done. [via USA Today]
My book Apocalypse Any Day Now is available here: http://www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow
Please don’t tweet and drive scooters.
Tune in here every Friday for Tea’s Weird Week.
Today starts my 3-day vacation, where I’ll be doing nothing but laying in a hammock drinking pina coladas. Just kidding. I will be doing some kicking back at the Moonlight Retreat, but I’ll also be taking a red pen to a couple manuscripts and leading a ghostlore workshop.
Being somewhat in vacation mode (and looking forward to fall), for today’s column I thought it would be appropriate to round up of some stories I’ve studied this summer. I’m working on finishing up a book about conspiracy theory (American Madness) and 2019 has been a helluva year for it. This summer in particular feels like the one where we collectively lost our damn minds. [I included links to further reading.]
Here’s my top 5 Summer of Conspiracy stories:
(1.) Storm Area 51: I wrote about the viral “Storm Area 51” event in this column a few weeks ago. Now there’s going to be a 3-day “Alien Stock” music fest, already drawing comparisons to the disastrous Fyre Festival. As I wrote before, I’ve been through the area and Rachel, the town the fest is happening in, has a population of 58 people, no infrastructure, no shelter, no nothing– the nearest gas station is 50 miles away! Not the best place for an EDM festival. [USA Today]
(2.) QAnon Vigilante: One of my editors sent this article to me and I’m surprised I haven’t seen it more in the news cycle. Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, who was head of the Gambino crime family and spent most of his life avoiding death, had his ass capped by a vigilante conspiracy theorist named Anthony Comello, inspired by QAnon. I’ll be dissecting the story more in my book. [New York Times]
(3.) Flight of the Flat Earther. After aborting his mission last weekend, Flat Earther and rocketeer “Mad” Mike Hughes is set to blast 5,000 feet into the stratosphere in his homemade rocket tomorrow, which reads “Research Flat Earth” on the side and was funded by a hook-up dating app called Hud. The attempt will be filmed for an upcoming show called Homemade Astronauts for the Science Channel, which sounds fun. At first I was completely confused as to how launching 5,000 feet in the air could prove anything about Flat Earth as we have planes, hot air balloons, and hang gliders that can rise higher than that, but then I realized this is more about publicity. It’s not the journey, it’s how you get there. [Space.com]
(4.) V is for…Anti-vaxxer? This year’s San Diego Comic Con featured an appearance by a large group of protesters dressed as V, the character from V for Vendetta in a protest appearance made popular by Anonymous. A couple months earlier, the same (or similar) group protested outside of Disneyland for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, dressed as Star Wars characters. [respectfulinsolence.com]
(5.) Epstein Suicide Conspiracy. The most interesting news story of the last week for me was the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein. It was just crazy to see conspiracies explode and proliferate online within minutes of his death being reported. Because Epstein had some connection to both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, the theories were partisan– Trump had him rubbed out or the Clintons had him whacked (to fit the Clinton Body Count theory) or a Deep State cabal did. I even saw theories that Epstein made a getaway, leaving a dead hobo’s body in his place (a theory spread by the band Foster the People, among others, who tweeted “Epstein’s on a private plane to somewhere in the middle east getting prepped for plastic surgery right now”). [NBC News]
Alright, enough conspiracy– I’m off to the Moonlight Retreat. Have a good weekend!
My favorite barbershop is Jose’s. Sad to hear of namesake Jose Ortiz’s death. Here’s an “Off the Cuff” I wrote on him for the Shepherd Express back in 2008, after someone suggested I stop in and talk to him because he was an interesting person. Indeed he was.: https://shepherdexpress.com/arts-and-entertainment/off-the-cuff/barber-extraordinaire
My latest book is Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers. You can find it here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow
Tea laughs it up and weirds out here every Friday.
This column (and my life) focuses a lot on Funny Weird, but today I thought I’d talk about another interest of mine, Funny Ha Ha. People tend to know I’ve written about subjects considered unique or unusual like Real Life Superheroes, paranormal investigators, doomsday prognosticators, conspiracy theorists, etc. But as a freelance writer, I’ve written about a lot of things that wouldn’t be considered to be fringe. Topics I’ve written at least a couple articles on include local music, burlesque, roller derby, food/drink, theater, comic book artists, authors, and interviews with a wide range of Milwaukeeans for the Shepherd Express and other publications.
And I’ve always had a fun time writing about comedy. Really, how can you go wrong? You sit around and laugh, then write it up.
I’ve written a few articles on the local comedy scene here in Milwaukee, including a round-up of local open mics and an article on Milwaukee Comedy Festival back when they were on year 2 or 3 (they just did their 14th year!) In more recent years I wrote on the Milwaukee comedy scene in general in 2015 and did an “Off the Cuff” interview with Matthew Filipowicz of Laughing Liberally earlier this year. Fun stuff.
Anyway, one of my favorite publications to freelance for is Scandinavian Traveler. I was contacted by them years ago when Risto Pakarinen editor (and author of a new novel, Someday Jennifer— congrats, Risto!) read my book Heroes in the Night and asked if I would be interested in penning an article on Real Life Superheroes.
Since then I’ve written a few articles for Scandinavian Traveler, including one on Chicago chocolatier Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut-Chocolat (a very delicious assignment), the Mars One program, and some checklists I compiled while I was on vacation in San Francisco.
Risto gave me an extremely delightful assignment for the July issue of Scandinavian Traveler, asking if I’d write about the improv school at the legendary Second City Chicago for their “10 Trips with a Purpose” cover story. I took a trip down to Chicago and participated in an improv class. I also interviewed artistic director Mark Hovde about the comedy biz and Second City’s amazing legacy as the starting point for comedians like Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Meyers, and so many other comedians that went on to Saturday Night Live, Comedy Central, and other comedy careers onstage and in writing rooms.
Here’s a PDF version of the magazine (my article is page 71-74): https://scandinaviantraveler.com/sites/default/files/st1907.pdf
ClownWatch 2019: 08/01/2019: IndieWire reports that the Alamo Drafthouse will have a “clowns only” screenings at 17 theaters on September 5 of It: Chapter 2.
“encouraged to come dressed as a clown – the wig, the makeup, the oversized pants and suspenders, the blood-curdling makeup — and sit through this coulrophobia-inducing fright fest with a theater full of fellow clowns.”
Great googly moogly, what could go wrong?
The Week in Links
The Apocalypse Blog Book Club’s late summer selection is Feed by Mira Grant. Next selection will be made early October. The groups meets in person in Milwaukee and has online discussion world wide. Join the club here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1482975718409410/
Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2019 is happening Sept.13-15. See a speaker line-up and get tickets here: https://milwaukeeparacon.com/2019/07/26/milwaukee-paranormal-conference-2019/
The Milwaukee Krampusnacht 2019 event page is live!: https://www.facebook.com/events/520974881979502/