Category Archives: Monster Road Trip

Tea’s Weird Week: My Favorite Moments from Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2021

My name is Tea Krulos– I’m a journalist, author, tour guide, podcast host, and I founded the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference in 2015. The event took place this year September 24-26 and was sponsored by American Ghost Walks. It was a great time– the conference weekend is always kind of a whirlwind for me, but I had some really nice moments I wanted to share.

Friday Sept. 24: Paranormal Party Time

The conference officially begins with Paranormal Party Time at Faklandia Brewing. We were supposed to have activities on their patio, but rain came in and I had one of those stressful oh shit, everything is ruined moments. But I found myself surrounded by a great crew of people from American Ghost Walks, Tea’s Weird Week, and other assorted friends, standing around and drinking in the rain trying to figure out what to do. We rearranged some stuff and did a Ghost Story Open Mic, trivia, and a performance by Sunspot.

Heidi (left) shares a ghost story, Miss Information leads a round of trivia

You can hear a recording of the Ghost Story Open Mic session here: Tea‘s Weird Week Special: Ghost Story Open Mic 2021 (podbean.com)

Oh, and our volunteer Judy baked a UFO-themed cake for the event because it was birthday weekend for both of us! She also showed up at the conference the next day in an outfit inspired by the Flatwoods Monster. Amazing! My friend Hillarie Higgins also made me some ghost cookies!

Judy has been a great volunteer and supporter of the conference. Happy Birthday!

Saturday Sept. 25: Milwaukee Paranormal Conference at Alverno College (also my birthday)

-The morning of the conference is always a mad scramble. That’s just the way it is. But while scrambling, I was just so glad to see familiar faces of people I haven’t seen in awhile and to be able to meet some cool new people, too. The vendor floor was a great mix and we had a nice line-up of guest speakers. We tried to focus on Wisconsin-centric stories this year, everything from local ghost stories to Bigfoot sightings. Shetan Noir kicked things off with a talk on the “Lake Michigan Triangle” to a full house of people! Other Speakers included Baranaby from CAPS, Amelia Cotter, Allison Jornlin, Stacy Schuerman, Mike Huberty, Noah Leigh, J. Nathan Couch, and Jeff from Badgerland Legends.

Researcher Shetan Noir gives the first talk of the day on the “Lake Michigan Triangle”

– At 11AM Milwaukee Krampus Eigenheit, a group of local Krampus enthusiasts, was supposed to give a presentation but couldn’t make it. I stepped in to talk about the Milwaukee Krampusnacht event (Dec. 5, Bavarian Bierhaus). Rather than yammer on, I just showed this great video our friends at Haunt Collective put together after our first event and some photos from our 2019 event (taken by Troy Freund Photography). There was great enthusiasm for the event– it’s going to be the best holiday celebration in Milwaukee!

-At noon Mike Huberty was set to give a presentation on the urban legend of Haunchyville but was hung up for a minute helping with tech in the other room, so I told the people waiting for him that Mike would be along in a minute to “talk about a little place called Haunchyville?” Now that’s a good joke! (Get it? Because Haunchyville is an urban legend about a secret village of angry little people in Muskego? Ah, nevermind.)

Donovan Scherer of Studio Moonfall also created this fabulous Haunchyville coloring sheet to give out at the talk:

-Throughout the day, I signed a few books for people. It’s always a great feeling to get a book into the hands of a reader instead of sitting in a box somewhere. You can find out more about my books here: teakrulos.com/about

-The Tea’s Weird Week Live panel happened at 1pm. Me and Heidi hosted a panel that included Goddess Adia, Hillarie Higgins, J. Nathan Couch, and Donna Lea Wells Fink. Before we called guests up, me and Heidi discussed one item– that the latest paranormal investigator to explore the famously haunted Pfister Hotel was…Megan Thee Stallion, staying there because she was performing at Summerfest. I told Heidi that wasn’t a surprise because she had sung on “WAP,” which obviously stood for “Weird, Abnormal Phenomena.” Hey c’mon, that was a good one! But a very fun time. I gave out about a dozen gifts to the audience– books, a bat kite, hot sauce, and swag packs.

The Tea’s Weird Week podcast crew.

You can listen to the panel here: Tea‘s Weird Week, S3 ep03: Live from the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference (podbean.com)

-American Ghost Walks also did a panel with Mike Huberty, Allison Jornlin, Wendy and Scott Markus, and Carrie Postuma. We recorded it so you can listen here: Milwaukee Paranormal Conference American Ghost Walks Panel (podbean.com)

The American Ghost Walks panel

-Thanks to everyone who attended, our guest speakers and vendors, and our dedicated volunteers!

-Kinda nice– after the conference we didn’t have a live event this year, so I went home and got into pajamas to watch livestreams– Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee investigated the Cedarburg History Museum and American Ghost Walks livestreamed from the Brumder Mansion.

Sunday Sept. 26: Activity Day

-At 10am I arrived at Forest Home Cemetery where the day was starting with a Yoga in the Cemetery session. It was an absolutely beautiful day for it and when I arrived I found about 20 yogis ready to enjoy the morning. I really wish I could have participated, but I had to keep er movin.

Yoga in the Cemetery @ Forest Home Cemetery

-By Noon I was in Riverwest to drop by the MPC Poetry Open Mic at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts. It was MC’d by Kavon Cortex-Jones, one of the most talented poets in the city. Meanwhile, my friend Kelly Teague hosted a Pop-up Death Cafe at Grant Park (which is supposed to be haunted) and I hear that went really well.

MPC Poetry Open Mic @ Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts

-2pm, Wisconsin’s leading mafia expert Gavin Schmitt gave a talk at the Bay View Community Center, a perhaps lesser known but great event space. I stopped in and Gavin signed a couple books for me. He was a great addition to the conference this year.

-We had Third Ward and Waukesha American Ghost Walks and a Forest Home Cemetery “Art and Symbolism” tours going on at 3, but I headed over to the Witches Faire at Faklandia Brewing, set up by Heidi Erickson and friends. It featured vendors and workshops and it was the perfect day for it. There were many beautiful witches there, so I just hung out with a drink in the warm September sun and enjoyed hanging out with them.

The Witches Faire

-And holy smokes, another birthday cake, this time a Bigfoot-themed, baked by witches! If there was a spell baked into it, it was a good one!

-I didn’t make it to the last event of the day, a Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Fest presentation of Lake Michigan Monster at Shaker’s Cigar Bar. I hear it was fun!

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference will return next year. Milwaukee Krampusnacht is Dec. 5 at Bavarian Bierhaus.

If you want to help support us, we have some leftover merch. Artist Estephanie Mendoza did the fantastic designs this year. Check out our shirts (we especially got a lot of XL left), buttons, and stickers on our Square store: milwaukee-para-con.square.site There’s also donation buttons on the Square site as well as a PayPal donation link here: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/mkeparacon


Your support is appreciated!

Please Clap Dept.: I was featured in MKE Lifestyle Magazine in an article titled “The Season of Supernatural,” which features interviews with me and colleagues Linda S. Godfrey and Anna Lardinois. Here’s what they say about me:

“Local treasure Tea Krulos enjoys delving into the fringe side of social movements, oddball personalities and the supernatural. With a quick wit and measured tone, the Milwaukee author and journalist gleefully blogs and chats about our strange world and the paranormal in his “Tea’s Weird Week” column and podcast.”

Did you hear that? LOCAL TREASURE.

Photo by Laura Dierbeck

Tea’s Weird Week, S3 ep03: Live from the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference: Tea and Heidi lead a panel live at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference with special guests Goddess Adia, Hillarie Higgins, J. Nathan Couch, and Donna Lea Wells Fink. Plus a paranormal trivia question from Miss Information and a great spooky season track from Sunspot, “Spend the Night.”

Listen here: Tea‘s Weird Week, S3 ep03: Live from the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference (podbean.com)
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Tea’s Weird Week: The Conjuring: 1992 Sally Jessy Rafaël Edition

I see there’s a new Conjuring movie out, the latest addition to the “Conjuring-verse” starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as “demonologists” Ed and Lorraine Warren. Oh Hollywood, you old devil.

Before I delve more into that, let’s revisit the “Trash TV” era of daytime tabloid talk shows. In the 80s and 90s, shows like Geraldo (1987-1998), Donahue (1970-1996), The Jenny Jones Show (1991-2003), The Jerry Springer Show (1991-2018), Maury (1991-present), and The Sally Jesse Rafaël Show (1983-2002) and others were all in competition with each other.

While cruising around Google, I found an episode of The Sally Jesse Rafaël Show with Ed and Lorraine Warren as guests from 1992 and it is just hog wild. In 1992 all of the shows I listed were on daytime TV and if you wanted to grab those ratings, you best dump the idle chit chat and get down and dirty– scream at a Satanist, get your nose broken by a white supremacist, send bratty teens to boot camp, break someone’s heart or reveal that they are “not the father.”

The Warrens fit right in to this environment. In the Conjuring movies the Warrens are depicted as beautiful people that are courageous warriors fighting demons, but there are quite a lot of accounts that suggest otherwise. They’ve been accused of being grifters who fabricate, exaggerate, and exploit to sell books, movies based on their appearances, and get paid appearances. They were experts of making a mountain out of a molehill, and as such were perfect Trash TV guests.

The Warrens 1992 appearance on Sally Jessy Rafaël’s show tied in with the release of a book titled In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting, which was turned in the pre-Conjuring-verse film The Haunting in Connecticut. The book is listed as being authored by the Warrens, the Snedekers (Al and Carmen), and another person I’ll talk more about in a minute. The Snedekers claim that in 1986, they moved into a home that was a former funeral home in Southington, Connecticut. The Snedekers say that their entire family witnessed supernatural events and the parents said they were sexually assaulted by ghosts or demons (incubus/succubus). They called in the Warrens, who stayed for 9 weeks or so, culminating with an exorcism that cleared the evil forces out. The case was also featured on shows like A Haunting and Paranormal Witness.

The Warrens (and the Snedekers) were not writers. The Warrens would hand notes to an author, usually a burgeoning horror novelist, so they could write a dramatic account of what happened. In the case of the Snedeker book, the Warrens hired then 29-year-old horror author Ray Garton. Garton was sent to interview the Snedekers and he says the story immediately began to fall apart.

In an interview, Garton says:

“When I found that the Snedekers couldn’t keep their individual stories straight, I went to Ed Warren and explained the problem. “They’re crazy,” he said. “All the people who come to us are crazy, that’s why they come to us. Just use what you can and make the rest up. You write scary books, right? Well, make it up and make it scary. That’s why we hired you.”

Yikes. Garton also says in the interview that “the family was a mess, but their problems were not supernatural and they weren’t going to get the kind of help they needed from the Warrens,” and that he never met the son, who much of the story revolved around. “I was allowed to talk to him briefly on the phone, but as soon as he started telling me that the things he ‘saw’ in the house went away after he’d been medicated, Carmen abruptly ended the conversation,” Garton says. The Warrens also said they had a videotape of supernatural activity– which Garton never saw because the Warrens said they lost it.

Garton finished the book, but guilt about fabricating the story led him to later speak out in several interviews. He called the book “the low point of my career.” And he says he’s not the only writer with this experience. From the same interview:

“Since writing the book, I’ve learned a lot that leaves no doubt in my mind about the fraudulence of the Warrens and the Snedekers — not that I had much doubt, anyway. I’ve talked to other writers who’ve been hired to write books for the Warrens — always horror writers, like myself — and their experiences with the Warrens have been almost identical to my own.”

With all this in mind, here is the 1992 episode of The Sally Jessy Rafaël Show titled “I Was Raped by a Ghost.” I included some notes on the program (but not on the incredible 90s fashion). A content warning, as the title implies, there is talk of alleged sexual assault by demons. Here is video of the entire episode:

0:15: Yes, the actual title for this episode was “I Was Raped by a Ghost.” Screen captions explain guests with phrases like: “Al SAYS HE WAS SODOMIZED BY A GHOST” and Al & Carmen SAY THEY WERE SEXUALLY MOLESTED BY A GHOST.

8:40: Sally Jesse: “In order to fully understand, we want you to show us what happened. We have a bed here today…” uh WHUT.

12:22: Al: “Carmen, I think I was just sodomized by this demon.”

12:40: Carmen imitates demon laughing as it takes pleasure sodomizing her, sounds like Count Chocula.

20:00: Carmen: “One night I ran down the street with Kelly, being sodomized the whole way.” I’m starting to think the Snedekers maybe just had a bad case of hemorrhoids.

21:43: Richard and other neighbors: NOT IMPRESSED, OVER IT.

28:27: This woman went on to be the most frequent poster in your neighborhood-orientated Facebook group (and also the butt of reoccurring jokes in that group).

31:54: Here’s Ed and Lorraine, promoting the book I mentioned, In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting. Sally refers to them as “ghostbusters.” Ed’s opening line is “We feel through our investigation that necrophilia, abuse of the corpses occurred at the home. Not necessarily by the undertakers, it could be anyone that went in there.” Dude, what?! He doesn’t offer any proof that would back up his pretty bold claim that the neighborhood’s dearly departed were being buggered, but I would guess the source was a psychic vision by Lorraine.

33:01: Neighbors: YEAH RIGHT. Also, weird green screen of the Snedeker House behind them. Just looks weird.

34:38: And if you want to know where the party is, this guy knows.

35:40: “If you ask the gentleman sitting right over there.” Uh yeah, that gentleman might be biased– that’s the Warren’s nephew and heir apparent John Zaffis, who went on to star in the reality show Haunted Collector.

38:58: They gave Joe Nickell of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry about 3 minutes, most of it Ed shouting over him. You might think it strange that a guy who loves weird stuff and hosts a Milwaukee Paranormal Conference and leads ghost tours would not like a skeptic, but that’s not true. Nickell is a great research journalist and I’m a fan of that. He’s got good information that Warrens are liars and that’s why Ed is trying to yell over him.

41:53: Carmen: “Ghosts have no gender, I don’t think. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe they have a gender.” That might be true, but they def got something they can stick in your butt.

42:16: Sally: “The exorcism apparently worked,” on hearing that the Snedekers were no longer being haunted.

Well, there you go, I think we all learned a valuable lesson here…that demonic hauntings can PAY BIG. The Haunting in Connecticut movie made over $77 million at the box office, The Conjuring made $318 million (one of the most profitable horror films of all time) and spawned 6 sequels and spin-offs. Hey, I get it– I’ve seen maybe 4 out of 7 of these movies, and I enjoyed them– just ignore that “based on a true story” bullshit claim at the beginning of the movie.

Tea’s Weird Week Season 2 Episode 4, Thanatochemistry: My co-host Heidi Erickson interviews death professional Kelly Teague about thanatochemistry, green funerals, and the Death Cafe, Tea and Heidi talk about the upcoming Midwest Haunters Convention and weird news about squids in space, mathematical bees, watermelon crushin’ record, a strange drone attack, and the classic 2004 case of Marvin Heemeyer and his Killdozer. Plus trivia from Miss Information, original music by Android138 and we close out with a fiery track from Queen Tut, “Matador.”
Listen here! Tea’s Weird Week S2 ep04: Thanatochemistry (podbean.com)

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Check out my latest books:

American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)

Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)

Tea’s Weird Week: Hodag vs Snallygaster

It’s so thrilling to have the podcast back on the air for a “season 2.” We kicked things off this season with an epic showdown between two local legend contenders. As I say in the intro to this podcast episode, we love folklore and legends at Tea’s Weird Week. There’s so many small towns across the country that have some story about a monster lurking in the forest, creeping a country lane, or swimming in the local pond. For many of these towns, their monster story is their main claim to fame– consider, for example, Mothman– who has made Point Pleasant, West Virginia a tourist destination.

This episode talks about the Hodag, monster celebrity of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and the Snallygaster of Fredrick County, Maryland.

I’m very well familiar with the Hodag. My parents took me to Rhinelander during a trip “Up North,” just so I could see photos and a sculpture of the monster in the Lumberjack Museum and they got me a t-shirt and a plush Hodag. People are still make a pilgrimage to Rhinelander to get souvenirs, as I found when I talked to Ben Brunell, proprietor of the Hodag Store (thehodagstore.com) for this episode. But what the heck is a Hodag? Well, I wrote an entry on it for my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press) and here’s an excerpt:

Perhaps the most uniquely Wisconsin monster in this list is the Hodag, a fearsome animal with giant horns, fangs, and a row of spines down its back. It’s frightening and yet also a sign of civic pride in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where the Hodag story originates. 

The Hodag, I hate to spoil so quickly, was a hoax. It was created by one of Wisconsin history’s most colorful characters, Eugene Shepard, who worked in the timber industry as a land surveyor and later in life ran a resort near Rhinelander. He hung around lumberjack camps, and as you might recall from the last chapter, claims to be the originator of Paul Bunyan folklore. He was an early circulator of the tall tales, but taking his word on anything would be hard to do as he was also a well known practical joker. 

Among his many pranks were fooling people at a resort he ran into believing he had a unique, rare breed of scented moss on the property (which was regular moss doused in perfume) and a fake muskie he had rigged up to leap out of the water to entice guests into taking  fishing trips. He liked to enlist a friend to pinch people’s legs on public transportation while he imitated a growling dog to fool them into thinking they had been bitten. To be in Shepard’s vicinity was to be a practical joke victim in waiting.

Shepard’s hoax with the longest-lasting impact began in 1893 when he claimed he had encountered a Hodag, a beast based on lumberjack folklore. A Hodag, lumberjacks believed, was the ghost of a disgruntled ox. In 1896, Shepard claimed he had captured the beast (by putting chloroform at the end of a long pole and knocking the monster unconscious). Several other details about the life of the Hodag were embellished and reported by Shepard and others—the Hodag preferred to dine on white bulldogs, for example, or that its young were delivered from a set of 13 eggs.

The original Hodag carving from the 1890s.
Hodag statue in front of the Visitor Center in Rhinelander

While scrolling through Instagram, I discovered the American Snallygaster Museum and was delighted by the story. The Snallygaster is a weird bird/octopus/dragon hybrid– depictions have varied slightly, some show it with one eye or three eyes, tentacles on it’s mouth or body, etc. The legend came with German immigrants who settled in Frederick County, Maryland. It’s not a story as well known as the Hodag or Mothman, but Sarah Cooper, creator of the American Snallygaster Museum (snallygastermuseum.com) is hoping to change that. She’s assembled art and other artifacts that’s she’s been displaying as a pop-up, but is working on a permanent location.

Cover art of a 2011 book about the Snallygaster legend.

The Hodag Store and the American Snallygaster Museum– two spots to add to your monster road trip!

Tea’s Weird Week, S2, Ep02: Hodag vs Snallygaster: In addition to talking to Ben Brunell (Hodag Store) and Sarah Cooper (American Snallygaster Museum), me and Heidi had a lot of catching up to do on weird news– Miss Information is back with a trivia question (answer to win fabulous prizes), and we close the episode out with a beautiful track from Mere of Light, “Moon from a Well.” Additional music: “Mecha vs Titan” by Kaijusonic/T.Reed/ Tao X Productions and “Demon Business” by Android138.

Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week S2 ep01: Hodag vs Snallygaster (podbean.com)

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