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Tea’s Weird Week: The Return of Birtherism and Pizzagate

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There’s something I’ve often thought about over the last few years (and was recently asked in an interview)– does Trump actually believe all the conspiracy theory shit he spews or is it a cold, calculated act? I think there’s a couple answers to that. One, he very much believes that his gut instinct is equitable as a fact. Two, he knows that conspiracy theories can be weaponized to attack his opponents. Sure, the “fake news” media will call him on it, but oh well– it’s already been blasted out to millions of Twitter followers and FOX viewers, who will take it as fact.

As I talk about in my new book American Madness (officially out next Tuesday) in a chapter titled “The InfoWars President,” Trump’s first legacy as a conspiracist is as a heavy promoter of  “Birtherism,” the racist false narrative that President Obama was actually born in Kenya, and thus not eligible to be president. Trump went on a media tour, talking up how Obama’s birth certificate was a fake, and spreading the conspiracy far and wide in 2011.

Last week, he decided to pull that dirty trick out of his playbook again. After Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden’s VP pick, the conspiracy-sphere quickly got to work, suggesting that Harris wasn’t eligible as her parents were both immigrants. When asked about this at a press conference, Trump does what conspiracy theorists do best when confronted– they waffle. As Slate.com reports:

When he was pressed on the issue, Trump continued to push back: “I just don’t know about it,” he said. The president then seemingly got angry at the reporter suggesting he knew the claims were not true. “Don’t tell me what I know,” he said. He kept on insisting he had no idea what the truth might be. “To me, it doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “I don’t know about it. I read one quick article. The lawyer happens to be a brilliant lawyer, as you probably know. He wrote an article saying it could be a problem. It’s not something that I’m going to be pursuing.”

Meanwhile, over at Trump’s buddy Alex Jones’ website, InfoWars, they decided it was time for a Pizzagate revival (another theory I talk about in a chapter of American Madness) with this headline on August 12: “Wikileaks Emails Show Kamala Harris’ Sister Attended Hillary Clinton/Podesta ‘Pizza Party.'”

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Here’s the graphic InfoWars created for their article. As you can see, there’s nothing ridiculous about it.

Pizzagate suggests that Hillary Clinton, her former campaign manager John Podesta, and other Democrats were running a pedophile sex trafficking ring out of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington DC, using pizza variations as code words for sex slaves. Podesta really is to blame for this, I suppose. Wikileaks documents show that the dude really loves pizza.

After Harris was announced as VP pick, InfoWars found their smoking gun– yeah see, Kamala Harris’ sister, Maya, attended a “Pizza for Hillary” event at Tony Podesta’s house, who is the brother of Clinton campaign manager John. Guess who else was there? James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong.

Pizzagate became a core value of QAnon believers, who have recently been hijacking the hashtag #SavetheChildren to try to infiltrate their beliefs. A lot of well intentioned people are getting sucked into theories about George Soros, Clinton, and pepperoni pizzas.

Related news: Trump just acknowledged QAnon on record, to my knowledge for the first time. When asked about recent Congressional candidate (who will likely win) and QAnon believer Marjorie Greene, he responded:

“Well, I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate. But I don’t know much about the movement. I have heard that it is gaining in popularity and from what I hear it’s– these are people that…don’t like seeing what’s going on in places like Portland, and places like Chicago, and New York and other cities and states. And I’ve heard these are people that love our country and they just don’t like seeing it.”

His “I don’t know much about the movement” is such bullshit– really dude? You’re the President of the United States, you don’t have the resources to find out? Have an advisor get on Google for you.

But of course it’s not that he doesn’t know, it’s that he doesn’t care if it benefits him in some way. Like I said in this column last week, a cult hanging on his every word is something Trump’s ego won’t let him refute, no matter how delusional and dangerous they may be. 2020: The Year Conspiracy Destroyed America continues.

American Madness is available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Quimby’s: CLICK HERE Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE
Amazon: www.amazon.com/American-Madness-Conspiracy-Theories-Consciousness/dp/1627310967
and wherever books are sold. Add “to-read” on Goodreads CLICK HERE.

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Here’s my recent appearance on See You On The Other Side, where I discuss the book with Mike and Wendy:

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Furry Fandom 2020 Survey

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Photo via anthrocon.org

I’m working on a project where I’m conducting surveys with a few subcultures/ social movements/ fandoms. I currently have an open survey for those that identify with the furry fandom. The goal is to find data to how furs have responded to events of the last few years and in particular, 2020.

Patch O’Furr, who reports on news related to the furry fandom on his site Dogpatch Press, was very helpful in reviewing my survey questions to make sure they were worded in a sensible way. He wrote a nice intro to me and the survey here: https://dogpatch.press/2020/08/11/furry-survey-tea-krulos/

I’m writing about furries in a respectful (but truthful) way. Personal info won’t be shared. If you’re reading this and identify as a furry, I hope you participate/ share! Here’s a direct link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZC2B88S

This survey will be open until Halloween (Oct.31)

Thank you, my furry friends!

–Tea Krulos
author, American Madness

 

Death of a Superhero

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Dale Pople aka Superhero

Imagine this– your car has run out of gas and you’re sitting stranded on the side of the hot Florida highway. You’re cursing out your bad luck when a corvette pulls up and a man clad in bright red, yellow, and blue spandex jumps out. He has a weightlifter’s physique and a bald head shining in the Florida sun.

He waves and smiles and says “need a hand?!” You stare in disbelief, thinking maybe you’re hallucinating in the heat. But the next thing you know, you’re sitting in the passenger seat of the Supermobile so you can fill a gas can up. He tells you his name is simply “Superhero.” He drops you off and waves cheerfully as he cruises away– all in a day’s work.

Dale Pople, to those who knew him, was “Super Hero,” or as he called himself in later years, “Old Superhero.” He was a well-known member of the Real-Life Superhero (or RLSH) community. He took his life this week at age 52.

He “didn’t grow up in the best of households,” was abused by his parents, and was harassed by bullies, so young Dale found escapism in the worlds of superhero comics and sci-fi. He joined the Navy, went to police academy, attempted a wrestling career, then found a job in television broadcasting. But the biggest part of his life was his adventures as the larger-than-life Superhero.

When I first began working on my book Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-Life Superhero Movement, Superhero was one of the first people I got in contact with. He was always helpful to me and I found him refreshingly honest and candid in talking about his motivations. He didn’t have some phony Batman origin story or tall tales in his patrol log– he was, he said, simply a guy who liked dressing up as a superhero to drive around and see if he could help the people in his community in Clearwater, Florida. He didn’t need a costume to help old ladies with their groceries or to help change a flat tire, but Superhero was his identity.

I wrote about Superhero in Heroes in the Night in a chapter titled “Early Prototypes,” which talked about my research into RLSH that were active prior to the community developing on message boards around 2005. Superhero had adopted his persona in 1998, though originally it was a wrestling persona. An injury cut his wrestling career short, but he next used the identity as a character in a pilot for a potential TV show, which was to be a fun, campy take similar to one of his favorite shows– the 1960s Batman starring Adam West.

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Young Superhero in his wrestling days,  late 1990s.

Other interests of Superhero included Godzilla (he had an impressive collection of toys), Star Trek, the film Logan’s Run, wrestling, true crime, and classic comics of the Golden and Silver age. He also loved spending time at the gym, where he met his wife, who would later be dubbed Lady Hero.

When the RLSH community began to develop in the mid-2000s, he was thrilled to find a like-minded group of people. He was incredibly supportive of his fellow RLSH and their endeavors. One of Superhero’s hobbies was to make custom action figures of the RLSH, carefully hand-painting the details. He enthusiastically took on his role in this movement of colorfully clad people by going on patrols, handing out supplies to the homeless, helping organize an annual toy drive, and other charitable work. In 2010, he helped create a milestone– his team of Florida based RLSH, Team Justice, became the first team to get non-profit status.

Superhero was often recommended as a media representative for the RLSH community and it’s easy to see why. With his broadcasting experience he was well spoken, charismatic, and had, as I described in Heroes, a “booming radio announcer voice.” He knew how to work the camera and give the RLSH story a good narrative. He was featured in the HBO documentary Superheroes, as well as The Adventures of Miss Fit, and a wonderful, award winning short documentary that focused on him titled Portrait of a Superhero. I included the video at the end of this post.

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Superhero and friends at San Diego HOPE, 2011.

I met Superhero in 2011 at the HOPE charity event in 2011 in San Diego. It was a great experience. I joined in and helped RLSH hand out a couple trucks worth of supplies to San Diego’s homeless population. Here’s an excerpt from Heroes in the Night, from the last chapter, “An Age of Heroes?” I described how I was in a truck helping to hand out food as a large group of homeless people gathered around it.

When the action died down for a moment, I stepped outside of the truck to get some air and check out the scene. It was surreal, but moving. Thanatos had his hand on a homeless man’s shoulder. The man had a bushy beard and was missing several teeth. The two of them were laughing and talking about the old Adam West Batman show. DC’s Guardian was in the street. Such a large crowd had showed up that he was worried it was a safety hazard, so he stood in the street, expertly directing traffic. Across the street, Superhero was instructing people to form an orderly assembly while Mr. Xtreme, Vigilante Spider, and Miss Fit helped hand out the backpacks and sleeping bags.

These people could have done anything with their summer vacations. They could have spent their time less than a mile away, where Comic Con was in full swing. But they chose to come here, sweat profusely under their spandex costumes, and work as a team handing out supplies to San Diego’s homeless population.

We did end up stopping by Comic Con later, where I have fond memories of sitting next to Superhero during the premiere of the aforementioned Superheroes documentary at the con and talking to him at the after party. I still remember his infectious laugh filling the room.

But behind that gleaming smile and brightly colored spandex, Superhero was struggling with some dark issues of depression. Be mindful that sometimes people who are so enthusiastic about helping others and making them happy are sometimes deeply suffering on the inside. Superhero wanted to save others, but he couldn’t save himself.

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Superhero and his Supermobile.

In a short, final Facebook video this past weekend, Superhero referenced following in the footsteps of his childhood hero, George Reeves, who played Superman on TV in the 1950s. Reeves was found dead in 1959, and police ruled that a gunshot to the head was a suicide. It’s a difficult video to see. Dressed in his Superhero costume (or “gimmick” as he called it), he is clearly shaken and overcome by what he knows will happen next.

“You know there was a time when I wasn’t too comfortable being Superhero,” he says to the camera. “But looking back at it, if I could have been somebody that made so many people happy and inspired so many people to do good– then he really wasn’t such a bad guy at the end of the day. He was all I was really good at being anyway,” Superhero says, shaking his head and giving his laugh one last time. “So until next time, it’s Superhero and– you know what to do!” That last sentence was his catchphrase.

In scrolling through my messenger with Superhero, I found I hadn’t talked to him directly recently, but found this message he sent after he had answered my final round of questions while working on Heroes.

“Looking forward to buying (the book)!” He replied to me. “You’ve been working on it for years. Anytime you want a patrol in the Supermobile, lemme know. If you’ll fit….you’re tall.”

That is one ride I would have loved to have taken with him, even if it meant that my knees were squished.

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Superhero’s custom figure of himself checking out my book.

A couple important things I’d like to share:

You know what to do! RLSH have organized a fundraiser to help with Superhero’s final mission. The fundraiser reads:

In Memorium of our friend Dale Pople, AKA “SUPERHERO”, we continue his final mission in helping the Pinellas Park, FL facility ‘Family Resources’, an agency dedicated to crisis counseling, safe shelter and safe respite for runaway teens, and notably at-risk LGBTQ teens.

Here’s the link, please donate and share: www.gofundme.com/f/old-superhero

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Superhero posted this July 6: “Well I just left Family resource center in Pinellas Park. Looks like we have a game plan. Let’s help some kids. Particularly I want to see if we can get some help for these LGBTQ teens in trouble.”

–We are living in very challenging times, which only adds to the stress people dealing with depression are feeling. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone.

The Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK(8255) and their website is here: suicidepreventionlifeline.org

You can watch Portrait of a Superhero directed by Tony Armer below, and see our friend Superhero in action.

Rest in Peace.

Tea Krulos is the author of Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-life Superhero Movement and American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness 

RLSH 2020 Survey

This is a call for participants for anyone who identifies as part of the Real Life Superhero (RLSH) subculture/ movement who is eligible to vote in the U.S. in 2020. I’m conducting a short survey that acts as a census to see what states/ teams are still active as well some questions about the year 2020– the presidential election, COVID, and Black Lives Matter.

The survey is just 10 questions, most multiple choice, and takes about 2 minutes to complete. The participants will be kept anonymous– only the data results will be shared. The data will be used in a report on this website and potentially in a future book that is a sociological study of subcultures.

This survey will be open through August 1, 2020. Any questions can be addressed to: teakrulos@gmail.com

The survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Z5NB2MF

Please help spread the word if you can and thanks for a participating!

–Tea Krulos, author, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-Life Superhero Movement

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RLSH gathered for a HOPE event in San Diego, 2012. Photo by Tea Krulos.

Tea’s Weird Week: Postcards from the CHOP

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I made a somewhat impromptu decision to spend the 4th of July weekend in Seattle. I’m working on a writing project (I’ll tell you about it in the future), and it was kind of irresistible to pass up a chance to explore the former Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), which was re-branded as Capitol Hill Organized (or Occupied, depending on who you talk to) Protest zone (CHOP). What better place to spend the holiday?

On June 8, protesters drove the Seattle Police Department out of their East Precinct and claimed a six block area (with the East Precinct and Cal Anderson Park as the center) as a “cop-free zone.” After that, “Free Capitol Hill” was held down to various results. Some described it as a summer of love street fest and others an anarchist warzone. The truth is, according to various people I interviewed, more complex than a quick label allows.

After a fatal shooting in the CHOP, a battalion of police and city workers opened it up and cleared protesters out early in the morning July 1, arresting anyone who resisted, removing tents and barricades.

Police kept everyone but residents out for a couple days after that, setting up a perimeter around the entire zone, giving the area the new nickname POOCH (Police Officer Occupied Capitol Hill). I wasn’t sure what I’d find, post-CHOP, but I thought it was worthwhile to go out and see the terrain and interview a few people.

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The East Precinct, abandoned by police June 8 and reclaimed July 1.

On Friday night, after a long day of wandering around Capitol Hill I met up with some Real-life Superheroes (RLSH). This is, if you didn’t know, an extremely familiar topic to me. My first book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-life Superhero Movement (Chicago Review Press, 2013) was a thorough look at this adventurous lifestyle. My upcoming book American Madness revisits the subculture briefly, too. I was particularly interested to talk to the Emerald City Heroes Organization (ECHO) because they had been spending a lot of patrol time in the CHOP.

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ECHO members, L-R: Justice Servin, Red Ranger, and Spirit Fox on patrol July 3, 2020 in the former CHOP.

My wildest moment over the weekend was observing the clash between a “patriot march” of the Alt-Right. They had proclaimed that “thousands” would be descending to dismantle the CHOP, but after police cleared they area, they said they would perform a “victory lap.” In reality, about 30 showed, including former Proud Boys, a group called Patriot Prayer, militia-types, and at least one openly showing off Nazi tattoos.

I’ll write in detail about what happened in the future, but the short version is Antifa, protesters, and Cap Hill residents chased the group out of town. Police broke up the conflicting sides at the beginning, but at some point just disappeared. The Alt-Right group tried to deter the protesters chasing them down by spraying clouds of bear mace into the street (several Cap Hill residents sitting on their porches got sprayed and joined in angry pursuit). I caught a good whiff of it. They would spray a huge cloud and then when protesters caught up with them again, they’d spray again– they did this 4 or 5 times (one time it backfired when the wind changed direction and they sprayed themselves).

Last time I was in Seattle (in 2011), by the way, I was following RLSH Phoenix Jones and witnessed an event called the “Pepper Spray Incident,” which I wrote about in Heroes in the Night. I guess every time I go to Seattle, I get a taste of pepper spray!

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On the scene of the protest.

Eventually police reappeared and gave the Alt-Right enough of a buffer to escape.

Converge Media is an independent news site based in Cap Hill and are out livestreaming protests and other actions every day. You can see their footage of the first part of the protest (keep an eye out for me– big, tall guy in a green Milwaukee Record shirt and black Fuel Cafe baseball hat) here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1022231294913417

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Alt-Right “patriot rally” in the CHOP, July 4, 2020.

The last day I ventured into the CHOP area was Sunday. It was a beautiful afternoon and I ran into several tourists to the CHOP taking pictures of the remaining graffiti, trying to capture this moment of Seattle history.

Here’s a couple random shots I took:

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Black Lives Matter mural down Pine Street in the CHOP area.

 

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Hello, you got a phone call from the CHOP!

 

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Random boarded up window in the CHOP.

 

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Statue of famous Seattleite Jimi Hendrix, right near the CHOP border at Broadway and Pine.

And here’s a postcard I designed for you:

Green Travel Vintage Postcard

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My upcoming book American Madness features a journey through conspiracy culture. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: Lion’s Tooth: CLICK HERE Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE Amazon:CLICK HERE

It’s on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52486773-american-madness

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“Tea Krulos has forged a fascinating collection of work by immersing himself in various sub-cultures that exist on the fringes of society.” —Cult of Weird

 

A Week to be Angry, Not “Weird”

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The one year anniversary for my column, “Tea’s Weird Week” is coming up in just a few weeks. Over the last 12 months I’ve enjoyed entertaining and informing with random musings, stories from my life, and reports about all sorts of strange things, like UFOs, conspiracy theories, ghosts, music urban legends, and much more.

There will be plenty of time for those things, but not this week. I sat down to work on this week’s scheduled column and I could not.

Black lives matter. This racist system is broken and has failed. The people have the right to protest and have their voices heard.

On Monday I watched in shock as peaceful protesters were tear-gassed and shoved out of the street in front of the White House, all so Trump and his crew could stroll across the street and pose for a photo-op with a Bible in front of St. John’s church. I will never forget those images or of the images of George Floyd being murdered.

All across the country (and the world) millions of people are crying out in the street that they’ve had enough. Listen to them.

Here’s some links I’d like to share:

Petitions, donation links, more resources: Black Lives Matter

Tips and Resources for Protesters

Op-ed by Kareem Abdul-Jabar: “Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge,” Los Angeles Times

Local Milwaukee resources: Milwaukee Freedom Fund

Frontline independent reporting: Unicorn Riot

If you have appropriate links to share, post them in the comments. Be safe and be good to each other.

–Tea

Tea’s Weird Week: Project COUCHSURF, my New Hobby of Hanging Out in the CIA Virtual Reading Room

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Quarantine continues! What have I been doing with all this spare time? I’m enjoying catching up on some reading. I’m working on some writing projects. I’m continuing to write in my quarantine journal every day. I’m watching shit tons of sci-fi movies and shows. I’m getting pissed off watching the news. I’m getting excited about my new book American Madness. I’m occasionally trying to be helpful around the house. I’m having good days and bad days.

I also picked up a new hobby. Every Sunday morning/early afternoon, I spend an hour or three drinking coffee and hanging out in the CIA’s Virtual Reading Room, reading declassified documents. In 2017, the famous clandestine organization uploaded about 13 million documents to their online reading room. I’ve wanted to take a look at these ever since, but didn’t have the time. Well, now I do– but I’m carefully limiting this to 2-3 hours a week on Sunday. This is to prevent me from falling down a stark raving mad rabbit hole. I’m prone to do that sometimes, so this is a preventive measure so I keep working on other projects. But still, if I read 10-20 documents every Sunday, that’s 500-1,000 files a year. Not close to 13 million, but I’m searching for some specific things. I’m calling this Project COUCHSURF.

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What I’m looking for– files related to UFOs, conspiracy classics, programs related to mind control like MK/Ultra, weird ideas like their remote viewing program (more on that in a minute), and their many failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro (for more on that, I recommend the documentary 638 Ways to Kill Castro).

What will I find? Who knows, that’s the exciting part! I’ll be posting here in future columns, probably as a short blurb at the end of the column, or, if I’m onto something good, future columns might be based on Project COUCHSURF research. We’ll see.

The first files I dug into were ones related to Project STARGATE (sadly not related to finding portals to other worlds like in the movie/ TV shows). The program included other projects over the years (GRILL FLAME, GONDOLA WISH, CENTER LANE, STAR STREAK) but was consolidated into STARGATE. I’ve been interested in this since reading an entertaining account of the program in Jon Ronson’s book The Men Who Stare at Goats.

One of the main focuses of the program was to test the possible effectiveness of “remote viewers,” which are people that claim the ability to see things at a far away distance. They have a sort of out-of-body experience with psychic flashes that give them a vision of past, present, and future events unfolding across the globe. You can see why the military would love to have this ability– the program was used to try to peek on potential terrorists, espionage agents, and drug smugglers. There is, however, no indication that any part of the program was successful.

Here’s a few files I found that were of interest. I linked to the files on the report dates, so you can check them out if you want.
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Project 8122: Sept.3-8, 1981 remote viewers described a “jeep like vehicle” that arrived at a bunker somewhere in Stuttgart and stole explosives. The vehicle had a tag on it with the number “862 or 863” The file reads: “source reported possible future use of explosives in ‘some kind of raid on airbase,;” scheduled “for the period 1-5 May 1982.”

The report goes on to give vague details on where the suspects work and live, and the remote viewers determined that the stolen explosives were hidden in the basement of one of the suspect’s house, which had a red tile roof and “was marked 718 or 719,” with this sketch included in the report:

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A report on a Project SUN STREAK remote viewing session with Remote Viewer 095 from June 26, 1989  describes how they were trying to zero in on a drug boat with a cargo of contraband in waterproof containers in the hold. Viewer 095 was able to see the boat’s journey from Tobago to the Dominican Republic and looking to the future could see that “the final destination of the vessel is a long (N-S orientated) island due east of Lake Okeechobee. A weaker feel was a location on the coast of Florida directly south of Tallahassee.”
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In another SUN STREAK session we find that Remote Viewer 032 visualized a UFO on September 13, 1989. One thing I love are seeing handwritten notes and parts deemed important circled or underlined:

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Viewer 032 turns out to be quite a character, I’d love to find out who it was and interview them.  Just over a week after the UFO remote viewing, we get another report from Viewer 032 on September 22, 1989. This one reads like a sexy spy adventure.

I was able to access this woman almost directly. She was in a place on the coastline. It was a village that had small shops and residences lining streets that were narrow. I was drawn to the many canopies that covered each of the openings of the dwellings. The woman had been here many times.

This village is somewhere along the Mediterranean coastline. I watched the sun rise to my left as I faced the sea. For this reason I sense that the village is on the northern shore.

There was a man– who was very handsome. This man is much younger than the woman. Look for a man with dark skin, hair and eyes. He combs his hair straight back and it is groomed close to his head.

The man works for someone and listens to the woman routinely. I think that this woman is married but frequents this place under the guise of work and meets this man. She has been many other places with him also all over Europe. There have also been other men before this one. I don’t know what she tells him but it is with reluctance that she does. She feels bad most of the time– other times she doesn’t even realize [rest of sentence obscured by CIA approval stamp.]

It’s hard to put out an APB on a “man with dark skin, hair and eyes” who works for “someone” located “somewhere along the Mediterranean coastline,” which shows the problem with the whole program. Even if the remote viewer’s skills were legit, would any of their information be useful?
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In addition to notes on the remote viewing sessions, there are several reports that SRI International (a scientific research institute in Menlo Park, CA) was paid to research on remote viewing. “An Effort to Improve Remote Viewing Quality Using Hypnosis,” October 1989 was a 17-page report where they describe an experiment where remote viewers were hypnotized and then asked to describe pictures cut from magazines hidden in envelopes (“in summary, hypnosis does not appear to be an effective way to enhance remote viewing quality.”) Other reports by SRI include “A Remote Action Experiment with a Piezoelectric Transducer,” December 1987 and “A Remote Action Investigation with Marine Animals,” also from December 1987.

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I look forward to bringing you more reports from Project COUCHSURF in the future!

American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness by Tea Krulos from Feral House on Vimeo.

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My upcoming book American Madness features a journey through conspiracy culture. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: CLICK HERE

It’s on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52486773-american-madness

Follow me on:
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“Tea Krulos has forged a fascinating collection of work by immersing himself in various sub-cultures that exist on the fringes of society.” —Cult of Weird

Tea’s Weird Week: American Madness Book Trailer!

Today is the premiere of a book trailer for my upcoming book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (out August 25 from Feral House). This writing has been quite a fascinating and crazy journey for me. It started with my interest in documenting the life story of an eccentric individual named Richard McCaslin, whose life was a winding path through comic book superheroes, conspiracy theory, and the pursuit of a skewed American dream. The story evolved into something much bigger and now, in this insane year 2020, I can’t help but think the publication date is perfect timing.

Many of the people I wrote about in American Madness— Alex Jones, David Icke, QAnon, Anti-vaxxers, Roger Stone, and, of course, the “InfoWars President” himself, Donald Trump (and his Obama conspiracy obsession)– have all been in the news this year.

Here’s a quick peek at the world I entered:

American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness by Tea Krulos from Feral House on Vimeo.

Big thanks to all involved in helping me create the video! Lyle Blackburn lent his voice to narrate the trailer. Lyle is an all around cool guy– he narrates the Small Town Monsters documentary series, is in a cool band called Ghoultown, and has written several books on Southern cryptozoology case studies, his latest being the upcoming Sinister Swamps: Monsters and Mysteries from the Mire.

Android138 provided music for the soundtrack, I knew his creeping horror style, which he calls “#DoomBap” would be perfect– listen to more to his tracks and slip into a paranoid conspiracy world of your own on his Soundcloud page. Stephen Vincent Anderson is my wonderfully creative friend who it all together, check out SVA Photo & Video on Facebook and Vimeo.

Thanks to my publisher Feral House and to Milwaukee Record and Cult of Weird for sharing the video.

Here’s 4 ways you can help me make this book a success:
-Pre-order the book. My preferred pre-order link for you is: https://bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963 (you can also pre-order from Boswell Book Company and on Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites)
-Add the book to your shelf on Goodreads.
-Share the book trailer, pre-order link, or this blog post on social media. “Word of mouth” is helpful.
-Most libraries are receptive to suggestions on new books and many have a “material request form” on their website.

Here’s more book info:

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American Madness: The Story of The Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness will be out August 25, 2020 from Feral House.

The mainstream news media struggles to understand the power of social media while conspiracy advocates, malicious political movements, and even foreign governments have long understood how to harness the power of fear and the fear of power into lucrative outlets for outrage and money. But what happens when the harbingers of “inside knowledge” go too far?

Author Tea Krulos tells the story of one man, Richard McCaslin, who’s fractured thinking made him the ideal consumer of even the most arcane of conspiracy theories. Acting on the daily rants of Alex Jones and his ilk, McCaslin takes matters into his own hands to stop the unseen powers behind the world’s disasters who congregate at conspiracy world’s Mecca- The Bohemian Grove. It all goes wrong with terrible consequences for the man who styled himself-The Phantom Patriot.

McCaslin is not alone, as conspiracy-driven political action has bubbled its way up from the margins of society to the White House. It’s no longer a lone deranged kook convinced of getting secret messages from a cereal box, now its slick videos and well-funded outrage campaigns ready to peddle the latest innuendos and lies in hopes of harnessing the chaos for political gain. What is the long term effect on people who believe these barely believable stories? Who benefits, and who pays the price? Krulos investigates and explains the power of conspiracy and the resulting shared madness on the American psyche.

Tea Krulos is a Milwaukee-based writer who documents the underground world of fringe sub-cultures. His previous books, Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers and Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Super Hero Movement explored the driving beliefs and lives of the people who choose to reject accepted reality and substitute their own.

Pre-order link: https://bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963

 

Tea’s Weird Week: Trump Inspired QAnon Followers, Proud Boys, Gun Nuts, Racists, all Have 2020 Campaigns

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THE WORST PEOPLE RUNNING IN 2020, RANKED

I’m taking a break from examining COVID-19 conspiracy theories, which are proliferating stronger than ever with the circulation of a documentary titled Plandemic this week. I want to talk about something approaching on the horizon– the 2020 elections. In addition to deciding whether Trump will be in office another 4 years, there are a number of campaigns that are disturbing. Racists, “men’s rights” activists, hardcore conspiracy believers, and uh…people raffling off AR-15s are all throwing their hat into the ring year. The chance, no matter how thin, that any of these people could be elected into public office is sad and frightening. Personally, it’s inspired me to never miss a local election, no matter how mundane. Here then is a countdown of 8 groups or individuals running for office.

8.) QAnon, conspiracy cult with candidates in 17 states

First, let’s check in on the story of QAnon followers running for office. QAnon is a conspiracy cult that believes there is a satanic-pedophile-Deep State ring of Trump enemies– Democrats, intelligence agencies, “Lamestream media,” etc. and that Trump has a plan called “The Storm” that will round them all up and arrest them.

QAnon has been in the news a lot lately for violent, frightening activity. A mother arming herself and kidnapping her children (she didn’t have custody) and a woman who drove to New York with a dozen knives, ranting about how she was going to kill Joe Biden, are just a couple of the most recent ones. The recent failed coup attempt in Venezuela strangely included a mercenary who was into QAnon. These are strange times.

On February 13, I wrote a column titled “There Are Two Dozen Members of QAnon Running for Congress” about the disturbing news that QAnon followers were running for office across the country.

Bad news: the number of QAnon campaigns jumped from 24 to 39. More bad news: QAnon has created their own super PAC to support these candidates, called “Disarm the Deep State.” Kinda good news: After some of the recent elections, 15 of the candidates have dropped out or lost primaries. That means 24 still remain, including some who have advanced to be on ballots in California (7 out, 3 still in) and Texas (1 out of 5 still in). 

You can find a regularly updated list of all QAnon candidates by Media Matters for America here: “Here are the QAnon supporters running for Congress in 2020.”

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DeAnna Lorraine lost in the California primary but is still retweeted regularly by Trump.

7.) Paul Broun, Gun Nut, Georgia’s 9th District [UPDATE: lost in June 9 primary]

Sign up for e-mail updates, possibly WIN a free AR-15! (must be at least 17 to enter)! ‘Merica! Trying to take advantage of pandemic fears, Paul Broun, running for Congress in Georgia’s 9th district, released a cartoonishly bad fearmongering campaign ad. As New York magazine reports:

That’s right: Dr. Broun’s campaign is giving away an assault rifle (a.k.a. a “Liberty Machine”) to a lucky correspondent eager to repulse “looting hordes from Atlanta” (e.g., black people) or “tyrannical government from Washington” (an epithet that worked better when that Kenyan Muslim was president).

Bonus point: he also believes evolution theories he was taught are “lies straight from hell.” Here is Broun’s “Liberty machine giveaway” ad:

6.) Arthur Jones, Literal Nazi, Illinois’ 3rd District (LOST IN PRIMARY)

Art Jones, I’m sad to say, is a product of my home state of Wisconsin (Beloit). He’s a former American Nazi Party leader, holocaust denier, and perennial attention seeker that has run for office many times since 1976, campaigning as candidate for mayor of Milwaukee, mayor of Chicago, Chicago City Council, and Congress.  Jones was a fan of Trump and voted for him in 2016, though he later said he regretted it as Trump “surrounded himself with hordes of Jews.” He was one of several white supremacists who ran for office in 2018 and ran unopposed in the Republican Party in Illinois’ 3rd congressional district. He lost to his Democrat rival, but got almost 58,000 votes.

Embarrassed Republicans put in an effort to squash his candidacy with a “Say No to the Nazi” campaign this year and he came in last in the March 17 primary. Even though he lost, I wanted to mention his campaign to point out that he still managed to get 1,637 votes– that means there are either 1,637 people in Illinois’ 3rd District who have no idea who they are voting for OR are just totally cool with a Nazi representing them.

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Arthur Jones, Nazi, at a 2016 rally. Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/weaverphoto/29683766898

5.) Matt Gaetz, gasmask enthusiast, U.S. House of Represenatives, Florida’s 1st District

GQ calls him the “Trumpiest Congressman in Trump’s Washington.” Here’s a quick few things about Matt Gaetz– in 2017 he crowdsourced a house resolution that “primarily used content from /r/The_Donald, ‘a pro-Trump subreddit notorious for both its embrace of conspiracy theories and its gleeful offensiveness.'” In 2018 he invited an Alt-Right holocaust denier to Trump’s State of the Union address. In 2019, he tried to intimidate a witness, Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen. His most recent controversy was wearing a gas mask on the floor of the House as an apparent mockery to “fake news” about COVID-19. Not long after he was placed under quarantine when it was determined he had been in contact with a COVID-positive attendee of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

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4.) “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio, Concentration Camp creator, Maricopa County Sheriff

Joe Arpaio’s legacy will be of racially profiling to fill up his “Tent City,” an outdoor detention facility he proudly compared to a “concentration camp,” where immigrants are kept in a furnace-like tent that “could reach up to 141 degrees,” according to the ACLU. Women prisoners were “denied basic sanitary items,” and prisoners were forced into solitary confinement and chain gang work. He’s had dozens of lawsuits related to abuse of power over the years. He lost re-election in 2016. His racial profiling led him to be convicted of criminal contempt of court in 2017, but Trump, a big fan (Sheriff Joe was a huge supporter of the racist Birther conspiracy theory and Trump’s border wall) pardoned him. This year Sheriff Joe is trying to get his old job back. The Phoenix New-Times reports he has so far outraised all other candidates, most of it from out-of-state donors.

“I’m in this to win,” Arpaio saus, according to Phoenix New-Times. “I’m not taking any prisoners. My posse that I started years and years ago is coming back. A lot of things are coming back.”

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Joe Arpaio (right) with Ted Nugent.

3.) Enrique Tarrio, Proud Boys chairman, Florida’s 27th District and Nick Ochs, leader of Hawaii Proud Boys, Hawaii’s State Rep for District 22 (Honolulu).

The Proud Boys are an Alt-Right group that are racist, homophobic, sexist, just all around pro-toxic masculinity. Just take a look at the group’s initiation process. From Wikipedia:

The first stage is a loyalty oath, on the order of “I’m a proud Western chauvinist, I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world”; the second is getting punched until the person recites pop culture trivia, such as the names of five breakfast cereals; the third is getting a tattoo and agreeing to not masturbate; and the fourth is getting into a major fight “for the cause.”

The group has a history of showing up to cause violence at protests, and were present as part of the Alt-Right coalition at Charlottesville. Most recently, they’ve been using the anti-lockdown protests as rallying points.

Enrique Tarrio is the chairman of the Proud Boys and is running for Congress is Florida’s 27th District (Miami area). A second Proud Boy, Nick Ochs, who leads the Proud Boys chapter in Hawaii, is running for State Representative in District 22 (Honolulu).

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Enrique Tarrio, front and center, leading a Proud Boys march in Portland, OR. Photo via tarrio2020.com

2.) Laura Loomer, “social media martyr turned Trumptastic tribute*”, Florida’s 21st Congressional District

Laura Loomer is a “political stuntwoman” who got her start working with Project Veritas, and specializes in crashing events to grab attention for herself. Her first famous stunt was disrupting a Shakespeare in the Park performance of Julius Caesar in 2017. The play featured a Caesar that looked like Donald Trump and Loomer got onstage and started shouting about political violence.

She grabbed the mic at a women’s march in 2019 and told the marchers that they were “Nazis,” and filmed herself and others dressed in sombreros and fake mustaches trespassing onto Gov. Newson’s property as some kind of statement on immigration, among many other similar stunts as well as ambush “journalism” confronting targets in public. She calls this “Loomering” someone. She’s supported by InfoWars and has promoted “false flag” theories about mass shootings, suggesting they were orchestrated to produce outrage to repeal the 2nd Amendment.

Racist comments led Loomer to be banned on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, PayPal, Venmo, GoFundMe, Medium, Lyft, Uber, and UberEats. The latter ride service bans came from Islamophobic comments about cab drivers. After she was banned from Twitter, she handcuffed herself to the social media giant’s front door.

One reason Loomer ranked so high on this list is that her campaign is picking up steam– she’s already raised over $600,000, more than her eight Republican primary candidates combined, making it likely she’ll be taking on the Democrat incumbent of the district she’s running in. An endorsement of her was retweeted by Trump. Speaking of…

*”Laura Loomer is the Congresswoman Donald Trump Deserves,” The Bulwark

1.) Donald J. Trump, unhinged conspiracy promoter, President of the United States

Let’s not forget who made all this possible. Trump’s constant entertainment of conspiracy ideas paved the way for most of the people on this list. He retweets QAnon believers and an array of other conspiracy pushers, shares disinformation from sites like Breitbart News, and stokes the fires of racism, hate, and paranoia. Anything that damages his massive ego is attacked as “fake news,” with journalists labelled as “the enemy of the people.” As we’ve seen, he is exactly the type of person you don’t want in the face of a pandemic as COVID conspiracy belief has reached dangerous levels. Don’t let the dystopia continue– vote Trump out and shut down his army of delusional, hate-filled, backward thinking proteges.

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Rather than admitting he was wrong about a hurricane trajectory, Trump shows a map modified with a Sharpie. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

A couple observations:

-All of the candidates on this list are/were running as Republicans.

-What in the fuck is going on in Florida, especially Districts 21 and 22? Between the two there are 5 QAnon candidates and Laura Loomer. The districts include Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, and most relevant– Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, so perhaps the proximity to Trump?

-Good luck, human race. And don’t forget to vote. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Check your local elections and take a look at who is running– you might be unpleasantly surprised.

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My upcoming book American Madness features a journey through conspiracy culture. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: CLICK HERE

It’s on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52486773-american-madness

Follow me on:
Facebook//Twitter//Instagram//YouTube

 

Having just returned from the grocery store during an official pandemic, I’m reminded to highly recommend Apocalypse Any Day Now, from Tea Krulos, who went way down the doomsday prepper rabbit hole. Fun and unfortunately highly relevant. Do it.” — Brent Gohde, Cedar Block/ Science Strikes Back

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Tea’s Weird Week: Today’s World (couch) Quarantine Report

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Good morning, and welcome to Tea’s Weird Week. I don’t know what day or time it is, but today I’ve got a special report for you. We’ll start in my kitchen, get some coffee, then move back to my couch. Don’t worry, you can trust me, I’ve got a blog.

Silverware Drawer Report: 9 forks, 9 knives, 12 spoons, 2 corkscrews, 6 rubber spatulas.

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Sports News: When I was young, I worked as a cashier at a place called the Brady Street Pharmacy. It was a greasy spoon/ pharmacy counter/ convenience store and other things kind of hard to explain in a sentence. One of the regulars for the diner was a man named Pete. He was a big Italian guy that was always trying to catch his breath, had grey skin, a brown leather jacket, and a sharp widow’s peak, his hair dyed jet black. He looked like a cross between a character on The Sopranos and a vampire.

Pete would come in every evening after dinner and drink coffee. Afterward, he’s pay his $1.75 at the cash register, and talk to me for a few minutes. He would stand there with hands on the counter, leaning on it and trying to catch his breath between sentences. One night he decided that instead of small talk or news-of-the-day, he wanted to tell me about the terrible gambling addiction he used to have. It ruined his life at the time and he “owed money to people you don’t want to owe money to,” he said, shaking his head in shame. He started on horses, but after awhile he was betting on football, baseball, dog races, basketball, car races, tennis…and hockey.

“Let me tell you, that’s when you know you got a problem, when you start betting on hockey games,” Pete told me.

Anyway, this story just popped into my head this morning after I thought “what are sports gambling addicts like Pete doing during all this?”

Entertainment News: Everything is cancelled except sitting in a lawn chair in your backyard or alleyway and drinking Mad Dog 20/20.

My Coffee Cups, Ranked: (by use) 1.) Dali Lama mug 2.) Krampusnacht sticker travel mug 3.) “I Want to Believe” X-Files mug.

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Ask the Magic 8-ball: Question: I know that Bill Gates has given over $28 billion to charities, has worked to eradicate polio and global sanitation problems (among other things), but on the other hand, a guy I know on Facebook says that he secretly created COVID-19 so he could add some extra pocket money selling mandatory vaccines that will secretly microchip people and force them to buy and sell with his Microsoft app that is patent number 666– should I believe them?

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I Made a YouTube Playlist Dept.: I did– I have an “American Madness” channel that has playlists of videos related to different conspiracies, including a new “COVID-19 Conspiracy Craziness” list I’m adding videos to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoFCwzjjghaVXSWUwEZx27g/playlists

Sci-fi stuff I’ve binged: Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate: Universe, Eureka, Doctor Who, The 100, the Alien franchise.

#TrumpConspiracyCounter: Has hit 236. This week, among other things, I talk about the ouster of Trump friends Diamond & Silk, who were too conspiracy crazed for FOX. Yes, you read that right. More here: https://teakrulos.com/2020/04/29/trumpconspiracycounter-236/

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My upcoming book American Madness features a journey through conspiracy culture. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: CLICK HERE

It’s on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52486773-american-madness

Follow me on:
Facebook//Twitter//Instagram//YouTube

 

Having just returned from the grocery store during an official pandemic, I’m reminded to highly recommend Apocalypse Any Day Now, from Tea Krulos, who went way down the doomsday prepper rabbit hole. Fun and unfortunately highly relevant. Do it.” — Brent Gohde, Cedar Block/ Science Strikes Back

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