Category Archives: Paranormal News
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