Category Archives: Paranormal News
Last week, I shared pictures and a link to our Tea’s Weird Week podcast featuring interviews from UFO Daze at Benson’s Hide-A-Way in Dundee, WI. We got so much material we decided to split it into a two-parter.
I have one of those crazy busy weeks this week– good stuff (in fact, expect a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT in all caps sometime soon… UPDATE: the news is that book American Madness is being developed into a documentary. More details soon.) So this week I’m going to keep it brief and share a couple quick notes about this week’s episode.
- This episode features a short interview with writer and director Mark Borchardt, who directed a documentary titled The Dundee Project, filmed over several years at UFO Daze. It’s a great look at the characters hanging around Benson’s Hide-A-Way. Mark is planning a possible Return to Dundee doc. I’ve known Mark a few years now (he participated in the 2016 Milwaukee Paranormal Conference) and I want to tell you a great memory of him.
I was having a really down and out day, super stressed and all that– this was maybe 4 years ago or so, and I was sitting at a bus stop near Colectivo Coffee on Humboldt Boulevard. Mark came cruising around the corner and shouted out of his window: “Tea! Tea, keep the faith, man!” And was gone. It really made my day. I kept the faith.
- Awesome track by our podcast sound engineer, Andrew aka Android 138, “EarthSkum.” He’s very talented. Everyone who participates in the podcast– Heidi, Miss Information, all of the talented musicians, artists, and guests, are just great. I’m lucky to know you all. Check out Andrew’s music: www.soundcloud.com/android138
- Milwaukee Paranormal Conference is Sept.24-26. Do it: Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Returns Sept. 24-26, 2021 | Milwaukee Paranormal Conference (milwaukeeparacon.com)
Tea’s Weird Week, S2 Ep11, UFOs Over Dundee: Part 2
Tea talks to Mark Borchardt about his documentary, The Dundee Project, plus more interviews from UFO Daze at Benson’s Hideaway. Tea and Heidi talk about the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, Welch Klingons, the latest QAnon nuttiness, and more. Plus trivia from Miss Information and a dope new track by Android138, “EarthSkum.”
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep11: UFOs Over Long Lake, part 2 (podbean.com)
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Check out my latest books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
The Tea’s Weird Week podcast crew– myself, co-host Heidi, and sound engineer Andrew– took a short road trip to Dundee, Wisconsin to attend the 33rd annual “UFO Daze.” This is an extraterrestrial themed event at a bar called Benson’s Hide-a-Way, located on the shore of Long Lake. I loved it! This was a distinctly Wisconsin “Up North” type of UFO event– beer, brats, funny alien costumes, a tinfoil hat competition, an “Alien Juice” drink special, and people cruising on pontoons on Long Lake. In addition to locals, who were there for some day drinking fun, there was a good number of people we met who claim to have seen a UFO, been abducted by one, or even hail from a different planet themselves!
We were real happy with the trip, because one of our main goals with the podcast is to get out and see stuff like this.
The origins of UFO Daze trace back to sightings in the Dundee area– one theory speculates that there is “something” under Dundee Mountain– a hidden base? Bill Benson, proprietor of Benson’s Hide-A-Way, has spotted UFOs himself. A nearby marsh is where a mysterious crop circle was found.
When word got out that there was a podcast crew talking to people, we had no problem finding people who wanted to share their otherworldly encounters with us. In fact, we got so many interviews, we decided to turn this into a two-part podcast interview. Here are pictures we took and if you scroll to the end you’ll find a link to part one of this podcast adventure.
Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep 10: UFOs Over Long Lake, Part 1: Tea talks to Jess Rogge, host of The Rogge Report to help make sense of the Pentagon’s preliminary report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon. Then hear Tea, Heidi, and Andrew’s interviews live at UFO Daze in Dundee. Heidi and Tea continue the discussion in the news segment, as well as reports on more conspiracy lasers, huffin’ toad venom, and an outbreak of vinegaroons in Texas! Plus Miss Information has an out-of-this-world trivia question, and we close with a track by Spud Bucket, “Fraction of a Reaction.”
Check out my latest books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
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)
Check out my latest books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
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.
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.
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.
Check out my books:
There’s many things I like about the Tea’s Weird Week podcast, but one reason it is dear to me is that it’s been a part of my social time, a chance to talk to cool, interesting people, some I’ve known a long time, others I’ve just met. After wanting to do a podcast for years, the pandemic downtime finally caught up to me and like a million billion other people, I got that podcast rolling. TWW has a great crew– my co-host Heidi Erickson, sound engineer Android138, and trivia host Miss Information. We did a 13 episode inaugural season that ran January through April. Like a lot of things I do, it was a case of building an airplane while flying it, but I think it turned out well.
In season one, we had some really fun original music by Android138 and other music guests, an interesting array of interviews with people like writer and UFO podcaster Ryan Sprague, the yodeling dominatrix Manuela Horn, Lake Monster expert Scott Mardis, and Patch O’Furr, a furry investigative journalist, just to name a few. We also did things like an episode based on audio from my 2017 tour of the Luxury Survival Condos.
I love having a weekly discussion with Heidi for the Tea’s Weird Week News segment about topical stories and classic strange cases; a couple people won big answering Miss Information’s trivia, and we closed out each episode with a track by an awesome indie band. I guess the podcast follows a sort of weirdo late night show format– opening monologue/interview, weird news talk, bonus skit stuff (like some of the music bits and the “Comedy Roast of Zorth“), trivia question, song. We try to have fun and inform you about the very weird world around us.
You can listen to the entire season on your preferred platform choice– find the episode list and links to all platforms here: Tea’s Weird Week Podcast | (teakrulos.com)
We’re working on a new 13 episode season 2 (summer season) right now and we’ve got a lot of great stuff going. I’m going to tell you about the first 3 episodes we got in production and some of the ideas we have beyond that.
(S2, EP01.) Hodag vs. Snallygaster. We love local lore at Tea’s Weird Week. Many small towns across the country have some story about a monster that lurks in the woods, stalks a creepy country lane, or swims in the local pond. We talk with the proprietors of the Hodag Store in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and the American Snallygaster Museum in Frederick County, Maryland about their homespun monsters. (airs 5/21)
(S2, EP02.) The Marvelous Miss Fit. I met Miss Fit– bodybuilder, charity fundraiser, and Real-life Superhero star of The Adventures of Miss Fit while working on my book Heroes in the Night. A stereotype of Real-life Superheroes is that they are dorky, delusional Batman-wannabe white dudes. Miss Fit bench-presses that idea, then body-slams it, then puts it in a headlock. She’s just rad, is what I’m saying. (airs 5/28)
(S2, EP03.) Lost in the Schroeder’s Books Vortex. Imagine a bookstore that looks like something out of an episode of Hoarders, run by a mysterious and eccentric woman, a hodgepodge tsunami of books ranging from the worthless to the priceless. Well, you’ll have to imagine because the West Allis, Wisconsin Fire Department shut Schroeder’s Books and Music down years ago, but we get one last look as the store is being cleared out and remember the sights and smells of the store, plus a dramatic reading of some of the store’s Yelp reviews. (airs 6/4)
After that I’m not sure what order these might appear, but we have episode ideas in the works that include interviewing Nick Redfern about his new book, a visit to our friends at Dead by Dawn Dead & Breakfast in Manitowoc, a Bohemian Grove episode, and much more, plus some great music and intriguing trivia.
After that, we’ll take a short summer vacation and then season 3 will really be all out because it will be our fall season– lots going on. As I wrote in a 2019 Tea’s Weird Week column, “October is Mad Boo-Business.” We’ll be recording live from some events, doing our own live events, some ghost investigating.
You can see me and Heidi do the news segment live in the Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group (and hopefully I’ve figured out how to hook Streamyard to YouTube), we’re going live this Friday, May 14, 5pm CST for S2, ep01.
Check out my books:
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.”
I love weird stuff, I mean that should be pretty obvious. Check out the title of this column. But what is “weird?” That’s something I’ve been thinking about lately…”good weird,” the topics I enjoy learning about, researching, talking about…and “bad weird,” for example racist conspiracy theories, scam artists, people that are disrespectful and creepy.
There’s a couple things that have pushed this to the front of my mind. One, I started a Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group. Thankfully, we haven’t had the types of problems discussed in this column, but it sure is interesting to see how other people define “weird.” It’s so great to see people think of the group to post stories they run across– weird science, food, music, art, Zillow listings, pop culture, paranormal, conspiracy, and so much more. I would define some of these stories as not weird but just straight up gross or stupidity or politics as usual, but you know what? Weird is in the eye of the beholder.
The second thing that’s got me on about this is infiltration into the fields of good weird by the forces of bad weird. Last week the Tea’s Weird Week column and podcast talked to Patch O’Furr, a furry fandom reporter who uncovered an Alt-Right furry presence (bad weird) into the furry fandom (good weird). Since the January 6 Insurrection, I’ve talked to a range of media about my conspiracy research for my book American Madness and that’s because QAnon and other dangerous conspiracy beliefs have been creeping in everywhere, not just in the MAGA hordes. They’ve popped up in places as varied as UFO and other paranormal studies, the yoga and wellness communities, church groups, and punk rock scenes.
Here’s a few examples that spring to mind, in my opinion:
Good Weird: Sharing local lore of ghost stories and urban legends around a campfire. The best!
Bad Weird: Predatory psychics who prey on the grieving, claiming they can communicate with their deceased loved ones…as long as the money keeps rolling in. Also, shows like 3 Bros and a Ghost (not the actual title) that fabricate and exploit.
Good Weird: UFO reports and case studies– check out the column I wrote a few weeks ago, about a clause for UFO disclosure slipped into the last COVID relief bill. I love stories like that. The truth is out there!
Bad weird: Racist pseudoarchaeology “ancient aliens” theories that suggest cultures like the Mayans and ancient Egyptians were too “primitive” to create their famous monuments and therefore needed help from E.T.s. “Walk Like an Egyptian” outta here with that shit! Also, in this week’s Tea’s Weird Week podcast, my guests Jess Rogge and Shane Mields agreed with me that “Reptilians” are always an immediate red flag.
Good weird: Bigfoot.
Bad weird: QAnon Bigfoot. I’ve made a lot of jokes about this (and see this week’s podcast for a comedy special on the topic), because it is painfully ridiculous. But QAnon is a dangerous, destructive cult. Just look at the Jan.6 “Q d’etat” as the most explosive example.
Good weird: True crime case studies. I’m a total sucker for true crime documentaries.
Bad Weird: That line people cross when they idolize serial killers. Good, interesting documentary, sure. New role model? Uhhh…no.
It’s something to keep in mind on your path into weird topics. There’s always been problematic areas in the weird, but I’m now certainly more cognizant of this when I’m looking at people and their ideas. Ok, cool, you’re a Bigfooter. But are you a Bigfooter Bigfooter or a QAnon Bigfooter?
What are your examples of good weird or bad weird? Share in the comments on this post!
Tea’s Weird Week episode 07: I talk more about “Good Weird, Bad Weird,” with my guest panel Jess Rogge (The Rogge Report) and Shane Mields (Strange Uncles Podcast). Me and Heidi talk about paranormal investigation ethics, And yes, the legend finally had it coming…the Comedy Roast of Zorth, featuring comedians Addie Blanchard, Matthew Filipowicz, Dana Ehrmann, Greg Bach, and…Zaarg.
Plus a new trivia question and we close out the show remembering Damien Jones, who passed away in 2018, with his band Astral/Subastral‘s live performance of “To Those in Amber.” The song was recorded in 2017 as part of the Riverwest Sessions (follow on Facebook and YouTube).
Listen here: teasweirdweek.podbean.com/e/teas-weird-week-episode-07-good-weird-bad-weird/
Or on: Spotify//Soundcloud//Google Podcasts//iHeartRadio//PlayerFM//Apple//Stitcher//Pocket Cast
NEW MERCH (including Comedy Roast of Zorth design!) www.teepublic.com/user/tea-s-weird-week
Please Clap Dept.: I had a great interview with Ryan Sprague for his Somewhere in the Skies podcast. You can watch our interview about my book American Madness and conspiracy culture below.
My latest 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
Tea’s Weird Week: 2020 Review (e-book): https://www.amazon.com/Teas-Weird-Week-2020-Review-ebook/dp/B08SGL97YJ/ref=sr_1_1