Monthly Archives: July 2019
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
One of the best experiences I had working on my new book Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers was attending Wasteland Weekend out in the Mojave Desert. A chapter titled “Wastelanders” relays my experiences and all the good times I had there as I explored the end of the world in pop culture.
I really really want to go back, maybe do a book signing in the Thunderdome, make a few caps writing for The Wastelander, hang out at Wasted Saints, and enjoy all the Waste has to offer. It looks my travel budget is going to take me elsewhere this fall, but I’m shooting for 2020 if anyone wants to join my camp.
Fortunately, there’s a small slice of Wasteland pie to be enjoyed here in Sweet Home Milwaukee with the annual Mad Max Run, which celebrated ten years last Sunday. It’s a post-apocalyptic motorcycle ride that cruises around Milwaukee shaking shit up, organized by Cormac Kehoe, who also attends Wasteland and is a badass photographer. He has a few of his Wasteland photos featured in my book. Check out his incredibly beautiful Wasteland and Mad Max Run photos on his Flickr.
I hung out for the ride launch at Fuel Cafe so I could give Cormac and Mizz Breakbones (featured in one of his photos in the book) copies of the book. You can order your own Wasteland vacation reading material here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow
Tomorrow I’m going to spend some time at ye olde Bristol Renaissance Faire with my dear Kate and her sister. Kate is the person who prevents me from lighting myself on fire while I run down the street shouting obscenities. We go to Ren Faire once a year.
I told Kate this story, and I’ll tell you, too. When I was young, my parents brought me to what was then King Richard’s Renaissance Faire (according to the Internet, it operated as such from 1972-1988 before switching to Bristol). It was a little more rough around the edges than Bristol is. I remember a lot of people drunk on beer, and a row of muddy, shitty port-a-potties. The mud wrestling show, which now has it’s own little amphitheater, used to happen in the middle of the walkways.
Anyway, me and my parents are walking along when we see Excalibur, the sword in the stone. There’s a bunch of burly 80s bikers sweating and grunting, trying to muscle the sword out. There was a sign that probably read something like: “Thou whost pulleth the sword from the stone shalleth be declared rightful King of England.”
My parents told me I should try, so I gripped the sword handle and to my surprise, I pulled the sword out from the stone! The thing felt like it weighed 100 pounds. My memory of what happened next is a little fuzzy. A man dressed as a monk or a wizard came running over. He said I had magic powers and placed the sword back in the stone, showed me that it was stuck, then waved his hand around the handle and pulled it out again. My chief suspect for this magic power: a big ass magnet.
This monk or wizard made a lot of grandiose pageantry about my accomplishment and told me I was King of England.
“How about this,” I told him. “I’ll give up my title if you let me keep the sword.”
A royal NO was the answer to that.
The Week in Links
-I host the Milwaukee Ghost Walks Third Ward tour every Saturday evening (Friday dates will be added next month). You can find tickets here: https://americanghostwalks.com/wisconsin/milwaukee-ghost-walks/
-How about that new “Tea’s Weird Week” columnhead, what a beaut, right? The photo was taken by Megan Berendt Photography and the weirdo design was by Margot Lange.
-Very excited this month to be hosting a conversation with Linda S. Godfrey on her new book I Know What I Saw, coming up quick on July 17 at Boswell Book Company. Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/454343315368924/
-I was glad to see my book Apocalypse Any Day Now included in Milwaukee Magazine as part of a pile of books with local ties to read this summer. Post-apocalyptic living makes for good beach reading!