Category Archives: Conspiracy
An Examination of One of Music’s Strangest Sub-genres, Plus the #TrumpConspiracyCounter Hits 063
In past “Tea’s Weird Week” columns, I explored conspiracy theories and urban legends about musicians, everyone from The Beatles to Tupac Shakur to Kurt Cobain to Ace of Base. You can read part one HERE and part two HERE.
But what about music by the conspiracy theorists, for the conspiracy theorists? Although there’s examples of JFK Assassination Folk and Extraterrestrial themed pop-punk out there, no conspiracy topic has as well-rounded (sorry) of a musical output as Flat Earth Theory, as I discovered when I attended the Flat Earth International Conference in Dallas this last November. Flat Earthers create music in a variety of genres, but the bulk is hip hop, or as I like to call it, “flat hop.” You might be as surprised as I was to learn that there is more than one flat hop artist, and more than a dozen around the world (sorry)… but probably not much more than a dozen.
Bust out a big piece of cardboard, Globeheads, find a flat surface (again, sorry) and get ready to start break-dancing because here is…
7. “Get Over It,” Mr. Matty Moses
Choice rhyme: “You’re digger deeper and you don’t know what to believe/ you’re getting pissed off that you’ve been duped and deceived/who do you blame NASA? The elites? (both of ’em)/ a lot of darker voices hiding our reality that…the earth’s flat, flat flat get over it.”
Notes: Mr. Matty Moses isn’t having it and wants you to get over the globe lies. To prove he’s tough on this, he’s rapping atop a pile of pallets behind a factory and other urban environments. Bonus point for working in a diss on Greek philosopher Pythagoras (credited with being one of the first to realize the world is round) into the rap.
6. “The World is Flat,” B.A.G.D.A.G. featuring D. Marble
Choice rhyme: “I’m on a mission to go out and wake the masses/ Like this is They Live, and I’m handing out glasses/ Like ‘put these on quick and you can see how fake space is’/ Like I was sent here to tear down the Matrix.”
Notes: These guys are super stoked about their personalized flat earth sweatshirts. Which came first– the song or the sweatshirts? I’m betting sweatshirts. They Live and The Matrix are frequently referenced in Flat Earther culture (and conspiracy believers in general).
5. “Round and Curvy,” Friend of Yahweh
Choice rhyme: “I want to flow with the planets/ but oh well I can’t get past the firmament/ Just too round and curvy/ think I’m just too round and curvy/ I’m just too NASA nerdy.”
Notes: Wow-weeeee, I’m speechless. This is a (sometimes shot-for-shot) parody of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “White and Nerdy” video (which is a parody of “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire). This parody of parody is told from the perspective of a complete tool who believes in, you know, science, and features alien marionettes and a rapping “round and curvy” earth. Does the world– round or flat– need a “Flat Earth Weird Al” Yankovic? The answer is NO.
4. “It’s Flat!,” Curved Water
Choice rhyme: “It’s flat/ and now it feels so good to me/ I’m waking every day with this smile/ full of positivity/ waited all my life just to think for myself/ just a little bit more critically.”
Notes: I don’t know that this technically counts as hip hop, but I had to include it because of the damn hot flat earth passion! Most flat hop is about dissing NASA, mainstream science, the Illuminati, etc., but this song is about the pure ecstasy of discovering that the world is flat. It’s a flat earth song to make sweet love to.
3. “Dear NASA, Why Are you Lying?,” ODD TV
Choice rhyme: “NASA’s missions to the moon were never completed/ they just filmed them in a room and people believed it/ I used to wonder what it’s like to be an astronaut/ now when I seem em acting I can’t help but laugh a lot.”
Notes: ODD TV is one of the grandmasters of flat hop, no doubt. Check out my note about the playlist I made at the end of this article for more ODD tracks like “Cartoon Ball.” I chose this one for the sick Chili Peppers sample and the overall Flat Earth mood.
2. “Flatliner,” B.o.B.
Choice rhyme: “Woo!/ Use Use your common sense/ why is NASA part of the Department of Defense?/ they divided up the seas into 33 degrees/ feeding kids masonry bruh, be careful what you read.”
Notes: This is a Neil Degrasse Tyson diss track! After B.o.B. talked about the world being flat in an interview, it sparked a beef between the rapper and the astrophysicist. B.o.B. recorded this diss track and Tyson appeared on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore to literally drop a mic to demonstrate gravity. Guys, slow down! Remember what happened to Tupac and Biggie!
1. “Flat Smackin’ (The All-Star Remix),” Wes Blaze Muzik featuring Amber Paster, Sebastian Calico, ODD TV, DECM, Flat Earth Man, The Watcher, D, Marble, and B.A.G.D.A.G.
Choice rhyme: “Eat. Sleep. Debunk the globe, repeat.”
Notes: I have some sentimental value to this song because I saw it performed live at the Flat Earth International Conference last year and it was my awakening to the fact that flat hop was a thing. Just a couple great things about this track: 1.) “Flat smacking” is a Flat Earther term that refers to dropping knowledge on unsuspecting “globeheads” that the world is flat. 2.) Flat Earth Man is the biggest Flat Earther music star, a British dude that sings country songs about flat earth. He joins in the all-star rap here in the greatest country/ hip hop crossover since “Old Town Road.”
Please Clap Dept.: I’ve just created an American Madness Channel on YouTube, please subscribe. I haven’t uploaded any of my own videos yet. So far I got 4 playlists rolling: Flat Hop, which features all the songs on this list (plus several more), playlists with videos on the Bohemian Grove and Denver Airport Conspiracy, and a Tea Krulos Interviews list which has a few of my appearances on various podcasts. More playlists to follow soon. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoFCwzjjghaVXSWUwEZx27g/playlists
My upcoming book American Madness features my experience at a flat earth conference, among many other conspiracy encounters. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: CLICK HERE
Flat Earth hip hop, Reptilian aliens, and Kevin Spacey murder theories all just seems like stupid crazy stuff. But conspiracy can be dangerous, especially as it is being weaponized for the 2020 elections. The contents of this week’s #TrumpConspiracyCounter is alarming stuff.
57.) January 30: Trump retweets The Epoch Times. The newspaper (and related media) was founded by a Chinese cult called the Falun Gong, who believes a judgment day is nigh and that “Trump was sent by heaven to destroy Communism.” The newspaper is saturated in conspiracy theories, including promoting QAnon and Anti-vaxxers. In December 2019, Facebook took down 600 accounts tied to The Epoch Times that had created fake, A.I. generated user profilers and spent $9.5 million on pro-Trump ads. Source: “Facebook say a pro-Trump media outlet used artificial intelligence to create fake people and push conspiracies,” NBC News.
58.) January 30: Retweets DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero, who is running against Trump enemy Nancy Pelosi and is a regular on InfoWars. Tesoriero is one of 12 QAnon believers running for Congress. Source:“GOP’s ‘QAnon Conspiracy Followers Running for Congress,” The National Memo.
59.) January 30: Trump retweets Dawn Michael, a sex counselor and member of QAnon. For more on Michael and Tesoriero, read:
“Trump Retweets InfoWars Regular And QAnon-Supporting Sex Coach During Impeachment Trial,” Newsweek.
60.) January 30: It’s hard to make the distinction of what to list as conspiracy and what is just wacky Trump bloviating, but we’re going to count this Trump statement at an Iowa rally: “The Green New Deal, which would crush our farms, destroy our wonderful cows. They want to kill our cows. You know why, right? You know why? Don’t say it. They want to kill our cows. That means you’re next.” The Democrats Want to Kill Your Cows and Then You Theory.
61.) February 4: Honorary Counter Click for Rush Limbaugh. Trump’s State of the Union speech contained a lot of lies but was light on conspiracy. That’s not surprising as in situations like this we get “Teleprompter Trump.” But one shocking moment was when he awarded Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom…during the speech. First Lady Melania hung the medal on him as Trump commended his long time friend, who recently announced he is on his way out with stage 4 lung cancer.
Limbaugh is the original Alt-Right. He paved the way for every angry, obnoxious, far-right blowhard that followed– Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, and the FOX News personalities, just to name a few. He has a long legacy of disgusting racist, sexist comments and, of course, promotions of conspiracy theories. To mention just a few of his greatest hits: Birtherism, the Clinton Body Count, the theory that the 2018 New Zealand mosque mass shooting was a “false flag” to smear conservatives, that Hurricane Irma was a liberal hoax, and that mail bombs sent to Democrat targets were being sent by the Democrats themselves.
62.-63.) February 5: Retweets of Michael Lebron aka Lionel, radio and YouTube personality and promoter of QAnon and other conspiracies. See “Trump meets with promoter of ‘QAnon’ in White House,” The Hill.
Well, here we are. Just over a month into 2020 and Trump has already promoted conspiracy theorists and ideas over 60 times. Rush Limbaugh has won a medal that is supposed to go to Americans who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” These are dark times.
Follow #TrumpConspiracyCounter on Twitter: twitter.com/TrumpConspirac3
Conspiracy Month continues on Tea’s Weird Week as he continues to report live from Dallas…
I’m still here in Dallas. Tomorrow is my last day. I decided to come down here because I noticed the JFK conference which involves what is sometimes called the “Assassination Community” was happening a week after the Flat Earth conference. Both conferences have been interesting experiences. The JFK conference has been a smaller, older crowd, and it hasn’t been as eye-popping as the flat earth one (but what else could be?) Much like the International UFO Congress I attended years ago (while working on my book Monster Hunters) I find some of the talks to be really interesting and others are…well, pretty out there.
This is the last material gathering expedition for my upcoming book American Madness (out August 2020). The JFK assassination might be my last experience, but the event is where it all begins.
Before I went to this week’s conference, I stopped in the Sixth Floor Museum, housed in the former Texas Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy as he passed by in a motorcade. Of course, the people I’ve heard give talks these last couple days don’t believe that story. They have a wide range of ideas who the secret hand was organized the shooting, with bullets coming from all different directions– the famous grassy knoll, a bridge above the road, from within the motorcade itself. Oswald was just a patsy, they say. The nebulous “Deep State” are the actual murderers.
This picture grabbed my attention. It was taken shortly before shots rang out.
56 years ago today, President Kennedy was murdered and the course of the world was forever changed. The president died and our America the Conspiracyland was born.
I’ve got a lot of notes and literature from my Dallas conference experiences and another day of the conference tomorrow. Then I’m heading home. Which is good– I need some time to chill out, collect my thoughts, then after a hot minute of rest work on my manuscript and Milwaukee Krampusnacht (milwaukeeparacon.com/krampus).
November is Conspiracy Month at Tea’s Weird Week. Shit is about to get real weird, real fast.
Last month I did a column titled “9 Music Conspiracies and Urban Legends,” where I wrote about some classics like Paul McCartney being dead, Elvis (and Tupac) being alive, the 27 Club, and more. There were some stories that didn’t make round one, so I thought I’d start “Conspiracy Month” with a sequel column. To preserve this list, I’m picking up numbering where I left off with number 10.
(10.) Ace of Base is Secretly a Nazi Band
I laughed when I heard this one. There’s no way the Swedish sugary pop of Ace of Base, omnipresent in the 90s, could be some white power message in disguise, right? But as it turns out, there’s a spot of truth in here.
It comes down to one of the band members, Ulf Ekberg, being in a band called Commit Suiside, a Gothenburg white power band that was around from 1983-86. Vice wrote a story on it here: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/rm35nr/ace-of-bases-secret-nazi-past
Ekberg has tried to spin his involvement, saying he wasn’t part of recordings where extremely racist lyrics were recorded but he also expressed this:
“I told everyone I really regret what I did. I’ve closed that book. I don’t want to even talk about it, that time does not exist in me any more. I closed it and I threw the book away in 1987. I took the experience from it, I learned from it. But that life is not me. It’s somebody else.”
Did Ekberg’s Ace bandmates see “the sign” of this troubled past before they hired him to the Base? That’s unknown.
(11.) A Couple Things About Marilyn Manson
I heard both of these urban legends while in high school (or shortly after). I don’t have time right now, but I’d love to look into how urban legends like this spread before the Internet. Radio shows? Written publications? Just a whisper campaign that spread across the country? Because these didn’t originate in the halls of my high school. Anyway, the first Marilyn Manson myth is that he is actually the child actor who played the character of Paul Pfeiffer on the 80s sitcom The Wonder Years. Paul was main character Kevin (Fred Savage)’s geeky sidekick. The actor was actually Josh Saviano, not Brian Warner (aka Marilyn Manson).
The other myth was that Marilyn Manson had removed one of his bottom ribs so that he could enjoy auto-fellatio. There are also myths that Cher and several other celebrities have gotten ribs removed to have a slimmer waist. Snopes wrote about it here: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/getting-waisted/
(12.) Backmasking Satanic Panic
This is another one I heard in high school and was quite intrigued with. Certain records are said to have secret messages if you play the record backward. A classic example being The Beatles song “Revolution #9,” which if played backward is supposed to say “turn me on, dead man.”
In the great moral Satanic Panic of the 1980s and early 90s, the hand of Satan was seen everywhere– Dungeons & Dragons, comic books, and especially heavy metal. Hidden Satanic messages heard in rock and heavy metal were prolific. (Some bands later did put these hidden messages in, inspired by the hype). Led Zepplin was said to have an ode to Satan in “Stairway to Heaven” while the Judas Priest song “Better By You, Better Than Me,” was said to inspire suicide attempts. “You know Satan holds the keys to the lock,” is heard when you play the Cheap Trick song “Gonna Raise Hell” backward and “See you in hell!” is heard in the Grim Reaper song “Final Scream.”
As I mentioned, some later examples were probably added deliberately by bands after backmasking was established as a thing. Pareidolia is the wonderful thing where your brain sees faces, shapes, and items in woodgrains, architecture, pictures of fog, etc. It’s what’s happening when a lot of people think they have a picture of a ghost or a Bigfoot lurking in the woods. I’m not sure what the audio equivalent is, but I think that’s what’s going on with some of these.
VH1 has some clips of backmasking you can listen to here: http://www.vh1.com/news/52612/15-songs-satanic-backwards-messages/
(13.) The Killer Jerry Lee Lewis
Was Jerry Lee Lewis, nicknamed the Killer (for his throttling of the piano) actually guilty of murder? Lewis has been married seven times (so far). He had a famous controversy when he married his third wife, who was his 13-year-old first cousin, once removed in 1957. His 5th wife, Shawn Stephens, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 1983. The couple had been married just 77 days.
It looked like there was blood underneath Shawn’s fingernails, bruises on her body, and there were scrapes on Lewis’s hands. There was blood all around the house. Shawn had called her mom the night before saying she wanted to leave Lewis, but he wouldn’t let her. Lewis was abusing alcohol and speed. Despite all of the pieces of evidence, Shawn’s death was dismissed as “an accident.” Did The Killer get away with murder? Tea’s Weird Week is not a court of law, but it looks likely.
For more, including how local law enforcement probably helped the case go away, I recommend listening to the Disgraceland podcast episode titled “Jerry Lee Lewis: The Killer and Getting Away with Murder.” It talks about other Jerry Lee Lewis myths including tales that he sold his soul, was a vampire that fought in the Civil War, and the time he drove his car into Graceland’s gates, trying to assassinate Elvis.
(14.) The Andrew W.K. Factory
I mentioned this in the last column I wrote when I mentioned celebrities being replaced by doppelgangers, but wanted to explore a bit further. The Andrew W.K. conspiracy alleges that Andrew is not a singular person, but a sort of Mall Santa persona that is franchised out to play different shows.
Her’es Andrew addressing his frustration with the conspiracy in a Sept. 2017 interview with Ashley Naftule of the Phoenix New Times:
This idea that I don’t exist … I really don’t know what to think of it. There are times where I’ve gotten really angry about it, where I’ve been really frustrated by it, and there are times where I just wish I could control what other people think of me. But there’s nothing I can do to control what other people think. There are other times where I think I can control that perception if I work really hard, but then I see other performers have similar accusations that there are multiple versions of them too …
It’s just this archetypal myth that people go through with all sorts of people. But it does seem to be specifically about music figures. I’ve never heard anyone say there’s more than one Michael Jordan. But with Paul McCartney and Avril Lavigne or Taylor Swift or me – I don’t know why that is. Nobody says, “Oh, there’s more than one Bradley Cooper.”
He’s right, though I can think of a couple non-musician doppelganger conspiracies. As I mentioned in my last column, See You On The Other Side did a doppelganger episode (“Avril is Dead“) where they addressed the conspiracy that the Ultimate Warrior was replaced by the WWF. There’s also a theory that a sick Hillary Clinton was replaced by longtime Hillary impersonator Teresa Barnswell.
Anyway, it is my belief that there is only one Andrew W.K. out there– no one else can party that hard.
(15.) The Curse of Jelly Roll Morton
I read this classic story in a comic by Robert Crumb, “The Voodoo Curse of Jelly Roll Morton,” originally published in Raw vol.1 no.7 in 1985. I read it in The Complete Crumb Comics Vol.16 (2002). The comic was based on an interview jazz great “Jelly Roll” Morton gave in 1938. Morton attributed his success to using hoodoo in New Orleans, but also told about how the hoodoo boomeranged back to him in Brooklyn when a co-worker in the music industry cursed him.
As business began to decline, Morton suspected a curse and found a mysterious powder hidden under the rug near the entryway of his office. He saw a mystic Madame Elise who told him to take a bath with some special oils and to burn all his clothes in a bonfire. But he continued to lose work and felt he never broke the curse.
#ClownWatch2019: September, 25, 2019: Fort Madison, Iowa: Continuing reporting on frightening clown sightings, police gave chase in Fort Madison back on September 25 after receiving a report of a “menacing clown.” The clown jumped a fence and escaped capture.
October 29, 2019: Not a clown mask, but worth mentioning. Today reports on an Indiana man, Evan Zimmerman, who likes to dress as Mike Meyers from Halloween and sneak onto people’s property:
“I’ll stand in random people’s yards and look at them through the window until they notice me standing there,” Evan revealed. “I carry a fake butcher knife.”
Evan, I’m not sure you thought this hobby through.
Next week: I’ll be on the road and reporting from a…uh…very interesting location.
Real-life Superheroes, paranormal investigators, conspiracy theory: classic Krulos topics. Three short things related to these subjects have crossed my brain this week and got collected here.
The Legendary Jack
Let me tell you about this guy I know, Jack. Jack is frustrated. It’s hard to catch a break in this world. You put heart and soul into a project, you pour in this passion and you are ignored. Meanwhile some putz will launch into the stratosphere of fame for just the stupidest thing you can think of. It’s a drag, man.
One day recently, Jack told us on Facebook, he was at the check out of the grocery store. While scribbling out a check for the groceries, counting the pennies in his head, he noticed an ad on the check out lane for a guy he used to work with at an oil changing place. This guy now had his own mortgage company. You can bet this guy doesn’t worry if he’s buying generic or name brand peanut butter!
But Mortgage Man Dan will never know the thrill of leaping off the corner post of a wrestling ring, sweat and adrenaline flying off of him as he tackles Baron Von Retchblubber (or whatever his name is) while a crowd in rapture cheers, letting rip a primal scream. Because this Jack is former wrestler JACK T. RIPPER, famous hero (or heel is probably the right term) of a hundred fights!
But wait, there’s more! Zzzzzzap! This same Jack is the mighty Razorhawk, one of these Real-Life Superheroes, founder of the Great Lakes Alliance, founder of the HOPE events. I joined him in the search for a missing college student in Saint Paul, on a patrol on the streets of Minneapolis, and for a HOPE event in San Diego. I wrote about it in my book Heroes in the Night. Years later, I saw him at a HOPE event in Chicago. BAM!
This Razorhawk, in fact, was the winner of a YouTube reality show titled Academy of Heroes. His co-stars were his Real-life Superhero colleagues: the noble Knight Owl, the nimble Nyx, the dashing Danger Man, the philosophical Phantom Zero, the generous Good Samaritan, and the..uh…mouthy Motor-Mouth! By the end of the show, Razorhawk was declared winner by none other than comic legend Stan Lee himself. Excelsior!
And now, Jack has a more mellow project, but a very cool one. He’s now here, as his motto says, “to chew bubblegum and build models,” but he happens to be “all out of bubblegum.” Now known as the JACK OF MODELS, he has created his own YouTube show in which he carefully builds a variety of car and figure models, shows you how it’s done, and offers a few tricks and tips so you can enjoy this hobby, too.
I’m a fan. You can find the show here:
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv2ZgO3bbhW7rq-CdcYhskw
My most read column this month was a reprinting of a rarely seen article I wrote years ago titled “The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter” on Alexandra Holzer, star of the new reality show The Holzer Files. Just recently I had the chance to profile two interesting paranormal investigators for the October issue of Scandinavian Traveler magazine: Dale Kaczmarek of Ghost Research Society, who has been on the supernatural trail since the 1970s, and Ursula Bielski of Chicago Hauntings, who organizes the annual Chicago Ghost Con. Both have written books and offer tours and are all around experts on Chicago ghostlore.
You can read the article, “Meet the real-life ghostbusters,” here: https://scandinaviantraveler.com/en/places/meet-the-real-life-ghostbusters
I also compiled Dale and Ursula’s picks for “Chicago’s top 5 haunted locations”: https://scandinaviantraveler.com/en/places/chicagos-top-5-haunted-locations
Denver Airport Conspiracy
Ever since it was built, Denver International has been the subject of several conspiracy theories, including secret tunnels, weird art, a cursed horse statue, Illuminati meetings, and more. It’s pretty wild and every time I fly west, I hope for a layover at the airport.
While blocking off part of the airport for construction this month, the airport decided that instead of traditional “pardon our dust” signs, they would go full troll with a series of signs alluding to their reputation, including ones that mention the Illuminati, aliens, Reptilians (aka Lizard People), and more. Check out more of the signs here: https://www.curbed.com/2018/9/7/17832102/denver-airport-conspiracy-theories-signs-construction
And if you like conspiracy, well, hang on to your butts because November is Conspiracy Month here at Tea’s Weird Week. I’m doing some conspiracy related travel mid-November so I’ll be doing some reporting from the road. It’s going to be…interesting.
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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