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/
There’s weird talk from Tea here every Friday.
My friends just come up with totally dope stuff, I’m beyond lucky to know such creative people. Take for example the Moonlight Retreat, which “offers arts, play, learning, fun, wonder, and a deeper connection with nature and community for all folks within a summer camp environment.” It’s like summer camp for creative adults. How cool is that?
I’m glad to say I’ll be a guest at this year’s Moonlight Retreat, leading a workshop about Wisconsin ghostlore, not in a conference room, but around a campfire, which is of course one of the best possible places to tell ghost stories. For the rest of the camp I’ll be enjoying the many cool workshops, reviewing drafts of my manuscripts, and just hanging out– “chillaxing” as those kids today say. Looking forward to it!
If you’d like more info on the Moonlight Retreat, here’s the link: https://www.naomishersty.net/moonlight-retreat
For a long list of other ghost related stuff I’m doing, check out the links section at the end of this column. But first…
Who can forget the Great Clown Scare of 2016? Clowns appeared all over the country, threatening people and sometimes participating in random acts of clowness, oops, I mean violence. Over the past couple weeks there’s been two incidents of clowns meeting law enforcement, which means I am officially opening up the hashtag #ClownWatch2019.
07/20/2019: Report and video footage of a Joker style clown that led California Highway Patrol on a wild goose chase for an hour, sometimes taunting them through the sunroof while a passenger steered the car. The clown eventually ditched the car on Venice Beach, and frolicked in the sand with people before being arrested for reckless driving.
07/26/2019: Man dressed as a clown that started a “mass brawl” on a British cruise ship off the coast of Norway. “There was blood everywhere,” a witness reported. “Passengers used furniture and plates as weapons.”
Is nowhere on earth safe from a clown induced brawl? We’ll keep track in this column.
The Apocalypse Blog Book Club
While working on my book Apocalypse Any Day Now, I started a book club that reads dystopian fiction. A local group meets in Milwaukee and people from all over the world are part of the Facebook group. I’m keeping the club going and voting is now open for our end of summer selection. Join us, vote, and get a good end of the world book pick for your beach reading! Here’s the group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1482975718409410/
More Links to Ghost Stuff
Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2019— we just announced our speaker line-up. You can see that and get tickets here: https://milwaukeeparacon.com/2019/07/26/milwaukee-paranormal-conference-2019/
I lead the Milwaukee Ghost Walks Third Ward tour, which starting this week is every Friday and Saturday evening at 7:30pm (except Aug.16-17 cause I’ll be at the Moonlight Retreat!) Tickets here: https://americanghostwalks.com/wisconsin/milwaukee-ghost-walks/
I’ll be at the Old Baraboo Inn Sept.28 for the World’s Largest Ghost Hunt to talk about the Legend of Al Capone (including his ghost). See last week’s column for more info. The event link is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/379959039385127/
My book Monster Hunters (which made the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 2015 “100 Books for Your Summer Reading List”) has a lot of ghost material: CLICK HERE
Tune in every Friday to read about whatever weird stuff Tea is getting himself into.
Well, I’m on my way to visit Chicago twice in the next few days where I’ll be profiling legendary ghost experts Ursula Bielski (Chicago Hauntings) and Dale Kaczmarek (Ghost Research Society) for a magazine piece. Both are interesting people who have been in this ghost biz for a long time. The last time I saw them might have been at a panel I lead on Chicago Ghostlore at Wizard World Chicago a couple years ago, glad to be visiting Chicago and seeing them again.
I got an appropriate Chicago-themed book to read on the train by master level biographer Deirdre Bair titled Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend, research for an upcoming appearance I’ll be making in September at the Old Baraboo Inn.
I wrote an article for Cult of Weird titled “Chasing the Ghost of Al Capone” in 2016 that documented 5 places the ghost of the famous gangster is said to haunt. After reading it recently, my friends at the Old Baraboo Inn have asked me to join them in the World’s Largest Ghost Hunt there on September 28, as they’ve apparently heard whispers from Scarface himself.
I’m developing a presentation called “Legends of Al Capone.” It’ll premiere at Old Baraboo Inn and then entered into a roster of presentations called “Tea Talks” that I’m developing that will be available for library appearances, conferences, etc. See the Tea Talks page I’m developing here: https://teakrulos.com/teatalks
Here’s the event page for Old Baraboo Inn’s World’s Largest Ghost Hunt: https://www.facebook.com/events/379959039385127/
Unrelated to ghosts but much related to Al Capone, I’ve slowly been collecting some short stories about my life for an untitled book project. I don’t know when or where or how it might be published, but for now I’m just slowing adding to a Word doc whenever I have a memory I want to get down. I’m glad to share with you this short story I wrote about my overwhelming disappointment in Geraldo Rivera.
Al Capone’s Vaults
I can pinpoint my disenchantment date exactly. April 21, 1986, primetime, where you have found me, 9 years-old, excitedly sitting in front of a small but heavy television set in the living room, eating dinner at a TV table. This was a rarity—my parents insisted that dinner be at the dinner table except for Saturday nights, when we cooked frozen pizzas and watched movies in the living room. I was not allowed to watch more modern movies, so what we watched were a lot of old horror and sci fi movies—Dracula and Godzilla movies and old comedies starring the Marx Brothers and Abbot and Costello.
This was a special occasion, though, as my parents recognized my extreme excitement to see a two-hour Geraldo Rivera television special, THE MYSTERY OF AL CAPONE’S VAULTS. Wikipedia says about 30 million other people were also watching that night. I sat there eating maybe frozen pizza or fish sticks and French fries, with milk or orange soda.
Oh boy! Al fragging Capone, I knew who that was! [Breaking into a cartoon gangster impression] Yeah, see, I bet he had a lot of treasure in those secret vaults, see! I bet he had literal treasure chests filled with gold, see! Dead bodies—tommy guns—a stash of Cuban cigars—pictures of naked women! Who knows?! But we’ll find out soon as a construction crew behind Geraldo slowly worked to tantalizingly chisel through the wall to [TV announcer] AL CAPONE’S VAULTS!
I also knew who Geraldo was. My grandpa had angrily waved his hand in dismissal and said “ahhh, he’s just a ham,” which does actually sum up his career nicely.
Geraldo yakked on about Capone and his crime career and how you never know what’s just on the other side of this wall and wow maybe it’s filled with gold and cash! Each commercial break was an agonizing step closer.
Finally, after building suspense for two hours, the construction machinery burst through the wall of Al Capone’s vault! And there, Geraldo discovered the lost treasures of Al Capone—a few dusty, empty bottles. Trying to save face he commented that the bottles were antiques and might be worth something. A bitter smartass even at that age, I was like “yeah buddy, they’re worth 5 cents in Michigan.”
What a huge disappointment! It severely killed my expectation of things for life, which I suppose is kind of a good thing… life will let you down, get used to it.
But I’m glad to say those hard moments made the good ones all that much better.
Throughout my life there were also times of enchantment—moments where I believed in magic and ghosts and the wonders of the universe. But that goddamn Geraldo gave me this curse of a skeptical arched eyebrow, one that will expect a pile of dusty beer bottles in your alleged magical treasure vault.
Here’s some links!
RIP Rosemary Ellen Guiley, paranormal author and speaker. I met her briefly at a conference in Rockford and she signed one of her books, which is one of the favorites in my library– The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. Loren Coleman wrote an excellent retrospect of her career here: http://copycateffect.blogspot.com/2019/07/Guiley-obit.html
My book Apocalypse Any Day Now is available here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow
Speaking of, the Apocalypse Blog Book Club, which selects dystopian fiction to read will have a poll on a new title next week. You can find the club here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1482975718409410/
Tea reports on his weird week every Friday.
Every week is a little weird for me, but this week felt especially weird for everyone. The FaceApp (the one that makes you look old) is being called for investigation for it’s potential ties to Russian data mining, you can buy a drone-mounted flamethrower now, the trailer for the Cats movie is freaking people out, a five foot alligator (nicknamed “Chance the Snapper”) was caught in a lagoon in Chicago and in other weird alligator news, there was another story about flushed drugs creating “Alabama Meth-gators,”
But two other stories really grabbed my attention this week, both conspiracy related.
“Lets see them aliens.”
Wow, that Area 51 thing really blew up, huh? Started as a joke, the “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” Facebook event page now has over 1.5 million people saying they are “going” with more joining all the time. It’s produced a lot of hilarious memes, jokes, and genuine interest in the Area 51 story. A 2018 Netflix doc, Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers, is likely what helped inspired this.
As I watched the number of people saying they were going to the event rapidly rise, I suspected that although the majority were just in it for a laugh, by mathematics alone there had to be some people who actually will show up at the Area 51 site on September 20 (the event date) to try to pole vault over the fence wearing homemade body armor.
Forbes reports in an article titled “Some People are Taking ‘Storming Area 51’ More Seriously Than Others” that:
“Hotels and campsites in the area have reportedly received a boost in reservations because of the event, and the Air Force issued a stern warning to potential raiders.”
I’ve already been there (but not inside, I’m sad to say). I’m working on a book about conspiracy theory (out Aug. 2020 from Feral House) and in 2015 I joined the main subject of my book, a conspiracy theorist (among other things) named Richard McCaslin, in a trip down the Extraterrestrial Highway. We stopped at the Li’l Ale’ E’ Inn, and cruised by the perimeter of Area 51, which is a lot of desert and chain link fence. You’ll be able to read all about my desert adventure in the book, including the similarities between Richard and this “Raid Area 51” event.
Here’s a picture I took of the Extraterrestrial Highway sign. I was amused to see that a local bar’s “I Closed Wolski’s” sticker, an omnipresent sight here in Milwaukee, made it all the way down there (in the upper left corner of the sign).
As for attempting to raid Area 51, let me say that despite the event title, I’m pretty sure the base can stop you all, probably with a couple of well placed machine guns. So please just stick to making funny memes and keep yourself out of jail and free of bullet wounds.
Thanks to my friend Wendy who shared a link with me to an article titled “House orders Pentagon to say if it weaponized ticks and released them,” (and it’s been picked up by many news outlets over the last few days) which alleges that Lyme disease could have been part of an experiment to see how it could be spread in a military lab creation. It immediately reminded me of my conspiracy research. While working on the book, I’ve been studying programs that might sound like a conspiracy theory, but turned out to be true. Among the most bizarre were military attempts to weaponize bugs and bacteria in the 1950s.
These included the wonderfully titled Operation Big Itch, a 1954 deployment of cluster bombs filled with hundreds of thousands of fleas, dropped on a controlled testing site in Utah.
Operation Big Buzz was launched the following year, an experiment to see if 300,000 mosquitoes and dispersed from an airplane above Georgia. Further tests with mosquitoes in Georgia and Florida occurred 1956-58 including Operation Drop Kick and Operation May Day.
Another bizarre experiment was Operation Sea-Spray in 1950, in which the unsuspecting population of San Francisco was sprayed with bacteria, which led to at least 11 people getting serious urinary tract infections (one died) and was possibly responsible for heart valve infections and infections to intravenous drug users.
The catalyst for this recent inquiry to the Pentagon about ticks comes from a book published this year titled Bitten: The Secret History of Lime Disease and Biological Weapons by Kris Newby, which is now at the top of my “to read” list. I’m curious to see Newby’s research and if she lays out a compelling case. I’ll follow up in this column when I’m done reading it.
This Week’s Links
I had a great time leading a discussion with Linda S. Godfrey at Boswell Book Company for her new book I Know What I Saw. I wrote about the book for the Shepherd Express here: https://shepherdexpress.com/arts-and-entertainment/books/linda-s-godfrey-looks-for-monsters-in-i-know-what-i-saw/
Next tours I’m leading: Milwaukee Ghost Walks Third Ward tour tomorrow (7/20) and next Saturday, 7/27. CLICK HERE for tickets. I’m also doing the Cream City Tours Riverwest Pinball Wizards tour on 7/28, Facebook event HERE.
My new book Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers can be found here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow
Tea shares his weird week with you every Friday.
When I was a kid, my family knew I was into “weird stuff,” so my parents and grandparents sometimes saved newspaper articles they thought I might be interested in.
The ones I remember vividly were the Tallmann House poltergeist of Horicon, Wisconsin, that grabbed headlines in 1988 (and appeared on Unsolved Mysteries) and the Beast of Bray Road, which howled and broke loose in 1991. They were probably the first newspaper reports I read, and I thought about them a lot, drawing pictures of what the apparitions in Horicon might look like, and imagining werewolves lurking in the Wisconsin cornfields my family drove by.
Not shared with me, by the way, were reports on Jeffrey Dahmer and his arrest the same year, 1991. I would learn about that by eavesdropping on my grandma and mom talking about the case in hushed tones as they drank coffee at the kitchen table, while I hid around the corner.
Many years later, I was thrilled to meet Linda S. Godfrey, who was the reporter to break the story of the Beast of Bray Road and has since become a prolific author. Me and my friend, photographer Lacy Landre, drove out to meet her for lunch in Elkhorn and then me and Lacy cruised down Bray Road to see the stomping ground of the Beast. I wrote about Linda and the Beast in my book Monster Hunters: On the Trail with Ghost Hunters, Bigfooters, Ufologists, and Other Paranormal Investigators (2015, Chicago Review Press) in a chapter titled “The Accidental Werewolf Chronicler.”
An excerpt of that chapter was also part of a werewolf themed issue of Fortean Times magazine (July 2015).
Linda has gone on to write many books and I’m glad she’s also been a part of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference every year, and was presented with the first “Wisconsin Researcher of the Year” award at our year one event.
The Beast, meanwhile, has become a permanent part of Wisconsin lore, still very much talked about. For proof go no further than Seth Breedlove’s excellent The Bray Road Beast documentary, part of his highly recommended Small Town Monsters doc series.
I was happy to be asked to lead a discussion and Q and A with Linda for her new book I Know What I Saw: Modern Day Encounters with Monsters of New Urban Legend and Ancient Lore (Penguin/Random House), a great new collection of weird monster sightings. It’s happening Wednesday, July 17, 7pm at Boswell Book Company.
Here’s a short article I wrote on the book for the Shepherd Express: https://shepherdexpress.com/arts-and-entertainment/books/linda-s-godfrey-looks-for-monsters-in-i-know-what-i-saw
And a link to the Boswell appearance event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/454343315368924/
It’s sure to be an interesting discussion!
I’m glad to say I’ll get a chance to revisit the Beast myself (along with the Tallmann House poltergeist and much more) in my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore, out early in 2020 (I have two books out next year!) from The History Press.
The Week in Links
I’m the tour guide for the Milwaukee Ghost Walks Third Ward Tour (almost) every Saturday evening. Friday tours will be added starting next month. You can get tickets here: https://americanghostwalks.com/wisconsin/milwaukee-ghost-walks/
I’m still working on developing Cream City Tours. We’re doing a Riverwest Pinball Wizards tour Sunday, July 28 at 5pm, Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/727504021015028/
Get a copy of my new book Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow