Monthly Archives: March 2021
Well now, the nice weather is starting to breeze in. What’s an idyllic summer day? Sitting on a dock with a bucket full of ice and beer, listening to The Ramones and scanning a lake with a pair of binoculars, hoping to spot a Lake Monster? Sounds good to me.
In 2015 I had a book published titled Monster Hunters, which documented my adventures hanging out with people looking for evidence of ghost, UFOs, and cryptids (unknown entities of cryptozoology like Bigfoot, Chupacabras, etc.) In the early planning of the book, I knew there were several experiences I wanted to have and one was most definitely getting out on a Lake Monster expedition.
The most famous Lake Monster of all, of course is the Loch Ness Monster aka Nessie, a childhood favorite of mine. In fact, while backpacking through the UK and Ireland in the year 2000, I convinced my travel partner that we should head into the Highlands so we could check out Loch Ness. We stayed at a hostel in the town of Drumnadrochit, a hotspot of Nessie tourism, so we could go to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition and visited Urquhart Castle, which rested on the shore of the loch and was an area of several Nessie sightings. It was all very exciting to me and I bought as many Nessie souvenirs as I could cram in my backpack.
But I’m getting a bit off track. I was working on Monster Hunters and cryptozoology grandmaster Loren Coleman (prolific author and director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine) sent me in the direction of Champ Camp, an expedition that took place in Vermont in July of 2013. Champ is often called the American Loch Ness Monster, residing Lake Champlain, which is located between Vermont, New York, and Quebec. I signed up and set up camp with the cryptozoologists in Button Bay State Park in Vermont.
It was really a fun experience, a weekend filled with canoe trips, campfires, talking to Champ eyewitnesses, and visiting Champ landmarks. I wrote all about it in a chapter of Monster Hunters titled “Lake Monster Fever.” On the latest Tea’s Weird Week podcast, I caught up with one of the investigators I met on the trip, Scott Mardis, an extremely dedicated researcher who probably has more knowledge of Lake Monster and Sea Serpent cases in all of the 7 Seas.
Scott actually moved from Alabama to Vermont in the 90s so he could be closer to Lake Champlain and have time for hands on investigation into Champ. Scott says he believes he might have spotted the creature while Champ-watching in 1994. He eventually moved to Florida, where he investigates Florida cases– most recently he’s been paddling down the Saint John’s River looking for a creature nicknamed “Pinky.” But he does get back to Lake Champlain on a regular basis, trying to investigate every summer. This year he’s working on setting up a summer expedition with a new organization he’s a part of called the Lake Champlain Zoological Inquiry. Will they find definitive evidence of Champ? We’ll see.
Here are just a few pieces that Scott says are classic examples of Champ evidence:
What do you think? (Comment on this post). Nessie and Champ are far from the only Lake Monster tales, it seems like every body of water bigger than a swimming pool has some sort of lore about it. Lake Monsters and Sea Serpents have been spotted around the world and these are an ancient fear. A famous historical story is the much feared Kraken, which sailors feared would rip apart their ships. A few more well known North American examples include Ogopogo (spotted in Lake Okanagan in British Columbia), Flathead Lake Monster (of Montana), and the Lake Erie Monster aka South Bay Bessie, spotted in Ohio and Michigan. Here in Wisconsin there’s quite a legacy of historical monster sightings, from Lake Michigan to Rock Lake to Lake Geneva. Last week I talked in my column/ podcast about researcher Chad Lewis, check out his book Lake Monsters of Wisconsin.
So there you go– pack up your binoculars, hydrophones, underwater cameras, biopsy darts, giant nets, your copy of The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep, and a six pack– it’s Lake Monster season! I’ll send you a postcard:
Please Clap Dept.: I am a winner of a Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Award in the “Short Hard News Feature” category for an article I wrote for Milwaukee Magazine in 2020, “Reporting Live from the Street.” I’ll find out in May if it won gold, silver, or bronze, but I’m honored just to be in the top 3. The articles are judged by other press clubs around the country.
Tea’s Weird Week episode 11: I talk more with Scott Mardis about his studies of Champ and other Lake Monsters, then me and Heidi talk about AI pickup lines, a ghost grabbin’ VR game, a major shrinkage problem, and Joe Biden–fact or faked? Miss Information has a new trivia question and we close out with a track by Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra, “You Married a Sea Serpent.”
Last year I had a title released called Wisconsin Legends & Lore (History Press). I tried to collect a good mix from Wisconsin’s rich history of storytelling. One of my favorite parts was talking about urban legends from around the state. Urban legends are stories spun, usually about a creepy location, and people (usually young folks) get a frightened thrill daring, or even worse– double dog daring— someone to do something frightening. In Muskego, Wisconsin, there was a dare to drive down Mystic Lane late at night to look for Haunchyville, supposedly a community of angry little people that will attack you if you dare cross over into their turf. If you park your car on Bloody Bride Bridge in Stevens Point, local lore says you can look in your rearview mirror and see the Bloody Bride sitting in your back seat. These stories of looking in mirrors and chanting names, picking up phantom hitchhikers, and encountering monsters, witches, and psycho killers on back roads can be found all over the country. The stories vary slightly, but the premise is often the same.
One person well equipped to track these stories down is prolific researcher, lecturer, and author Chad Lewis. Chad has authored and co-authored books like The Road Guide to Haunted Locations series, Lake Monsters of Wisconsin, the Hidden Headlines series, and many more. Although he’s been all over the world, much of his work focuses on the Midwest. He grew up in Eau Claire (which is in Wisconsin, but close to Minnesota) and currently lives near the Madison area.
Chad admits his favorite part of writing isn’t the long hours spent staring at a screen, scrutinizing grammar, but rather the thrill of the open road, discovering new places, hearing new stories. That’s what makes Supernatural Dares of the Midwest: Curses, Monsters, and Ghosts such a perfect project for him. He’s no armchair expert– he bravely got out there and tried every dare in the book for himself.
“I pride myself that every place that I write about or lecture about, I’ve actually visited for myself. That’s just the way it works for me, I have to be there. With the dares it was important that I tried them all. I joke in the book that there’s only one that I failed at doing and that’s because many claim it doesn’t exist,” Chad told me in an interview for the Tea’s Weird Week podcast. “That dare is if you check out a certain book from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater library, you will go crazy and either die or kill yourself. The reason I failed is because the book apparently does not exist. The library has told me year after year they don’t have it, which is exactly what you’d expect sneaky librarians to say to you,” Chad laughed. He’s referring to an urban legend that the UW-Whitewater library has an ancient magic Book of Shadows locked up somewhere, part of the greater witch lore of Whitewater, which was called Second Salem because they had a Spiritualist school there in the late 1800s.
Chad traveled around Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois seeking stories of cursed gravestones, portals to Hell, and country lanes said to be stomping grounds of monsters, eventually compiling about 40 supernatural dares for his book.
But why do we do it? Why do we scare each other into these frightening experiences of potentially coming face-to-face with the ghost of Old Man Weary or a pack of Hellhounds?
“I think there’s many aspects to it,” Chad tells me. “One, it feels good. Believe it or not, fear can make you feel good. Once your mind realizes you’re probably not in any physical sort of danger, your body is still rushing your organs with chemicals, the same stuff you get from happiness, sex, excitement– it feels good, the endorphins rush through.”
The dares also give people a chance to have their own mini hero’s journey.
“I think a lot of people are looking for that test of bravery amongst there peers, especially high school and college age kids. If they can walk down a cursed marsh road with a Goatman there and not bat an eye, they get a boost of self esteem and are seen in a higher light in their peers’ eyes, so I think the social aspect plays into it, too,” Chad says.
Last but not least– a thrill in a cookie cutter, boring landscape.
“On a deeper level I think people like doing it cause when you start traveling the country, you see that a lot of the cities look the same– the same restaurants, hotels, gas stations,” Chad explains. “So people are looking for that uniqueness, that strangeness that can only be found in your area.”
As Chad says, I love these stories and I think they’re an important part of our cultural landscape, our own modern folklore.
You can pre-order Chad’s book and check out his other work at: chadlewisresearch.com
Tea’s Weird Week podcast, episode 11: I talk more with Chad Lewis about his career as a researcher into the unknown and some of the supernatural dares he encountered working on his new book. Plus me and Heidi read some of the dumb things our listeners did on a dare and discuss mask enforcing luchadores, a Joker-themed candidate in Japan, Amityville, crystal ball safety, sperm samples on the moon, and more. Miss Information reveals trivia answers, an Irish jig inspired track from Sunspot, and we close with Ratbatspider‘s track about the Haunchyville urban legend, “Keep This Short.”
My book Apocalypse Any Day Now came out in 2019. It’s about preppers and also different aspects of “apocalypse culture.” Working on the book is something I’ve thought about a lot while stuck inside sitting on my couch in this last pandemic year. One particularly memorable adventure while working on the book was taking an epic road trip out to Kansas with my friend Paul Kjelland to take a tour of the Luxury Survival Condos, a high end doomsday bunker built underground in a former Atlas F missile silo. After some back and forth emailing the condo developer, Larry Hall, he agreed to spare us some time to show us around in September 2017.
In this week’s Tea’s Weird Week podcast episode, I tell the story of the tour, some new perspective on the facility a year into the pandemic, and share some audio clips from the 3 hour plus tour we took. To pair with that audio, I thought I’d share some pictures– a few of these were featured in Apocalypse Any Day Now, but several haven’t been seen before. All these pictures were taken by Paul.
Literally middle America– Larry told us the Luxury Survival Condos, located in the middle of a corn field in Kansas, is about dead center of the continental United States if you were measuring west to east coast, northern to southern border.
After we were admitted through a barbed wired perimeter by a security guard, we entered through the condo’s blast doors– each door weighs eight tons of armored steel filled with concrete,
There’s a ramp that leads from the blast door area into the main condo complex and the hall is decorated with photos showing the construction process. Pointing one of these out is condo developer Larry Hall.
The swimming pool– not a typical doomsday bunker amenity. The facility has three 25,000 gallon tanks and a heavy filtration system.
Here I am taking advantage of the photo op after the waterfalls were activated. You can hear audio of this exact moment in the Tea’s Weird Week podcast this week: Episode 9: Doomsday Bunkers of the Rich and Famous (Revisited).
The lowest level of the structure, Level 15, has the movie theater, a $250, 000 room which has a state of the art projector (and a popcorn machine). We watched a clip of The Avengers down here. It was as high a quality (and maybe even better) than your typical movie experience. I haven’t been to a movie theater in over a year, by the way, and I really miss it.
I also really miss hanging out at bars– next door to the movie theater is the Flying Ace Lounge. We did not do shots down there– there was no booze stocked.
I thought this market level was one of the most interesting features of the survival condo. Instead of a simple food storage room, it’s set up as a miniature grocery store, complete with shopping carts so people can leave their units and have the experience of walking around, socializing and “shopping,” a sense of normalcy.
Another shot of a row of canned food in “Ship’s Store.”
Some of the tanks that will be used to breed tilapia and other fish in the giant hydroponics room, located in the former missile command center.
More tanks in the hydroponics room for growing plants.
In another rec area, we were shown this dog park, a place to take Fido when they have to go– the astroturf filters pee and the toilet in the background is for solid waste.
Another park of this rec area has a rock climbing wall, ping pong, foosball, and video games.
Part of the gym level.
Here’s half of a level that’s a library/reading lounge. The other half is a small classroom area that could accomodate maybe a dozen or so students at a time. As you can see, there wasn’t too much on the shelves when we visited. I did noticed Frank Herbert’s entire Dune saga was there, so that’s something.
This is inside one of the actual condo unit’s bedroom, 8 floors underground. Note the LED fake window next to Larry, designed to trick the brain that it is seeing outside on ground level.
The security control room, with monitors in all the common areas as well as the perimeter.
This room, the armory (or as I call it, the “fuck around and find out room”), unlike the library or bar, was well stocked. There’s a gun for every occasion in here as well as a stockpile of ammo and non lethal weapons.
This is how thick the silo’s walls are.
The different levels were a mix of “space hotel” clashing with “dystopian industrial.”
This is a lounge area with TVs, games, and a small kitchen. We sat down here to do an interview after the tour. You can find out how that went in Apocalypse Any Now and/or in the Tea’s Weird Week podcast!
Tea’s Weird Week podcast episode 09: Hear more of my thoughts on the Luxury Survival Condo experience, as well as some audio clips from the tour. Then me and Heidi discuss strange news including reports of Irish fae folk, glow-in-the-dark sharks, a catnip dispensary, a noise music confrontation, superpower reward money, and a bathroom mirror opens a portal to a creepy hidden apartment. Plus your last chance to win at trivia and we close out with a track by Alaska’s Eternal Cowboys, “Used Dreams.”
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week episode 09: Doomsday Bunkers of the Rich and Famous (Revisited) (podbean.com)
Check out my books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now (there is a print, ebook, and audio version!): www.amazon.com/Apocalypse-Any-Day-Now-Underground/dp/161373641X/ref=sr_1_1
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness: bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963
Tea’s Weird Week: 2020 Review (e-book): https://www.amazon.com/Teas-Weird-Week-2020-Review-ebook/dp/B08SGL97YJ/ref=sr_1_1
“System is Normal.”
Tea’s Weird Week: The Story of a French Canadian Rapper and a Model Who Went on a 5G Conspiracy Arson Spree
In my book American Madness, I talk about Richard McCaslin, who fell deep into conspiracy theories. When he took his own life in 2018, he wrote a final statement that mentioned several conspiracies he wanted to call out before he died. Among them was a point that he didn’t wanted to live in a world filled with “toxic 5G radiation.”
5G conspiracies exploded as the COVID pandemic began to shut down society about a year ago. They vary somewhat, but common ones suggest that 5G weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to the virus, or that 5G actually spreads the virus itself, or that 5G creates the symptoms being called COVID, so people will be forced to take a vaccine (which contains a microchip concocted by evil genius Bill Gates).
Fear and anger over these theories has led to international incidents of people burning down 5G towers to stop their perceived harmful output. The UK is a hotbed for this activity, with approximately 80 tower arsons and a string of Internet company workers being harrassed and threatened on the streets. The Netherlands also has had about 30 arsons, and towers burned in Ireland, Cyprus, Italy, New Zealand, Canada, and America (Oregon and Tennessee).
The strangest story to come out of these arsons comes from Quebec, as reported by Mack Lamoureux for Vice. Lamoureux has done great reporting on conspiracy theorists and extremists– I cited an article he wrote in American Madness that was an early look at how QAnon beliefs had caused people to lose their loved ones— friends, parents, spouses– to Q.
Lamoureux reports that a string of 7 (another source says 9) tower arsons across the province of Quebec were caused by Justin-Phillipe Pauley, a wannabe French Canadian rapper who records as Justin Phillipe, and his beauty pageant contestant and model wife, Jessica Kallas. One French Canadian newspaper has called them “Les Bonnie and Clyde.”
The couple were arrested last May, when Phillipe’s white Volkswagon was identified in security camera footage. Phillipe was found “not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder,” reports Le Journal de Montreal, as he claimed that he was “convinced his life was in danger” if he did not commit the tower arsons. He remains detained in a psychiatric hospital. Earlier this year Kallas pleaded guilty to criminal mischief. She’ll avoid a criminal record with 150 hours community service and two years probation. The couple has reportedly since split up.
Justin Phillipe’s music, unlike Flat Earth Hip Hop, does not offer any conspiracy clues as to his motivations. But is it good?
Well now. I’m no musicologist but…um…just watch this music video for Phillipe’s song “Party Like.”
In addition to the 5G tower arsons, Nashville Christmas Bomber Anthony Warner is suspected to have 5G conspiracy beliefs–his RV blew up outside of an AT&T center. He’s known to have believed in the Reptilian alien theory. Both the Reptilian and 5G theories have been promoted by British conspiracy-monger David Icke. This is also concerning as the vaccine is finally available and rolling out, but getting people to take it is a battle against 5G and vaccine conspiracy theory misinformation.
Please Clap Dept.: I had a great time as a guest on the Killed By Desk podcast. It was a unique interview as I talked about my personal life in addition to bits of my entire writing career.
Tune in to the show here: killed-by-desk.simplecast.com/episodes/22-tea-krulos-writer-journalist-milwaukee-punk-scene
Tea’s Weird Week podcast episode 08: Zeta Zimmer talks to me more about 5G radiation theories and ongoing fears of new technology. Me and Heidi talk about a mosquito tornado, a gang of feral chickens, a robot police dog, the Australian Nimbinjee, occult ritual in politics (from the Nazis to Bohemian Grove to CPAC), and a recent UFO sighting in New Mexico. Plus trivia and special guest Jen Cintrón tells us about her own UFO encounter in Puerto Rico and closes out with her track “Perfect Mirror” (check out her IntuitiveInsightsTarot.com page).
Listen here: teasweirdweek.podbean.com/e/teas-weird-week-episode-08-5g-conspiracies
And on: Spotify//Soundcloud//Google Podcasts//iHeartRadio//PlayerFM//Apple//Stitcher//Pocket Casts
Tea’s Weird Week merch: www.teepublic.com/user/tea-s-weird-week
Check out my books: American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness: bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963
Apocalypse Any Day Now: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/apocalypse-any-day-now-products-9781613736418.php
Tea’s Weird Week: 2020 Review (e-book): https://www.amazon.com/Teas-Weird-Week-2020-Review-ebook/dp/B08SGL97YJ/ref=sr_1_1