Category Archives: Uncategorized
On December 21, Congress approved a COVID relief bill. It was a monster 5,593-page piece of legislation, which lawmakers only had a few hours to peruse before voting. The most talked about part of the bill was the meager $600 sum for those unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. But the bill also included funding for vaccine distribution and COVID testing, supplemented unemployment and the Paycheck Protection Program and extended the federal eviction moratorium.
And, buried, deep within it’s pages– a 180-day deadline for UFO (or Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon, a term used to try to avoid the stigma of the little green men term “UFO”) disclosure. It’s not uncommon for members of Congress to roll out the pork barrel in a big bill like this to get government funding for local projects that benefit their constituents (or lobbyists), but who had slipped in the demand for UFO disclosure? And what might we expect to see? Fortunately, I knew just the guy to talk to– author, podcast host and UFO journalist Ryan Sprague.
“I never thought I’d see the day this would happen, let alone in a COVID-19 relief bill. It’s been crazy,” Ryan told me. I recently spoke to Ryan for an upcoming episode of his podcast Somewhere in the Skies (he wrote a book of the same name– both are highly recommended if you’re interested in UFOs) to talk about my book American Madness, and I used the opportunity to ask some questions of my own.
Among his other projects, Ryan writes for a fairly new site called The Debrief. It isn’t specifically a UFO site, though that is one of the subjects they cover. The Debrief “covers everything from disruptive technology to emerging science, defense, aerospace, and even UFOs so that’s kind of where I came in, I’m kind of their UFO guy on the beat, covering everything to do with that,” Ryan explains. The Debrief are the ones who first broke the COVID bill/UFO disclosure story, and their reporting was quickly picked up by other media outlets.
“The story actually traces back to the 2017 New York Times article that went viral with finding out the Pentagon had a secret UFO program and that they were investigating UFOs, primarily military witness accounts,” Ryan says. “That’s when we got those three videos, gun camera footage of these UFOs that our pilots in the skies were seeing. It was a whirlwind from there– we found out that these were official Department of Defense videos that were leaked to the public by Christopher Mellon, who is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and also a former staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee.”
Mellon began working with the former head of that secret UFO program (officially named the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program), Luis Elizondo, to study the phenomenon. They briefed members of Congress on their findings, including Senators Marco Rubio, Mark Warner, and (then Senator) Kamala Harris.
“They said we have to do something about UFOs- you guys have to take this seriously,” Ryan says. “Along with this bill being passed it was announced maybe six months ago that the Pentagon was creating a UFO task force– that’s where this bill comes in. Whatever this task force finds, they have 180 days to give a declassified release to the public.”
Ryan was also helpful in clarifying a story where media outlets have tried to connect stories A and B, which are unrelated– headlines have proclaimed that the CIA is releasing it’s UFO files, suggesting this is part of the recent disclosure clause, however, this is old news– most of these documents have been available for a decade. A key source of being able to read these files is John Greenewald’s site The Black Vault, where Greenewald has worked tirelessly to obtain files via the Freedom of Information Act.
What results can we expect to see when this 180-day deadline arrives? Will it be something truly revelatory, or just more highly redacted dead ends?
Ryan says he’s trying to be an optimist when it comes to the UFO disclosure, “but I’m also a realist and I think this is going to be kind of a let down for the really pro-UFO people, cause honestly in my opinion I don’t think the government knows much on what they’re dealing with, I think they’re just as much in the dark as a lot of citizens. They might know a little more, but I think they are just as mystified as we are as to what pilots are seeing and what people are reporting.”
Ryan also says he got discouraging words when he recently tried talking about the deadline to a Pentagon spokesperson.
“I asked, ‘what are we going to get from this thing? Anything?’ And the answer I got was ‘it’s all going to be classified.’ So I’m not holding out much hope that we’re going to get much out of it in terms of smoking gun information like what crashed in Roswell or are there 20 alien races living among us on earth,” Ryan laughs. But he adds “we might get some interesting cases of drones or more cases of military pilots who saw something they couldn’t explain. Who knows we have a whole new administration in the white house who are a lot more open to this topic, so maybe we’ll get more than we ever got, but I’m remaining hesitant and skeptical until it actually happens.”
Tea’s Weird Week episode 03: Hear my full interview with Ryan Sprague about the UFO disclosure story. Then Me and Heidi share weird news: “My Way” killings, monkey labor problems, a proposed Bigfoot hunting season, hubby’s dream numbers win big, our robot overlord Sophia, a scream hotline, and special guest Mandy Cappleman sings a song from 1652 that’s a total gas.
Plus trivia, a QAnon vs Flat Earthers poll, and we close out with the track “Algorithm Nation 1814” by Guerilla Ghost featuring the master MC of weirdness Kool Keith.
Listen right here: https://teasweirdweek.podbean.com/e/teas-weird-week-episode-03-countdown-to-ufo-disclosure/
Buy my 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
I’m not rich or famous (infamous, maybe), not really an amazing or even stable person. But one thing I’m very happy about– I’ve met a lot of interesting people in my life. I’ve freelanced hundreds of articles about musicians, artists, comedians, business owners, roller derby skaters, activists, and many other interesting people. I’ve penned 5 books now, most which have delved into social movements and subcultures and were based on interviews and getting “out in the field.” I’ve also met people through events I’ve organized, day jobs, and just “hanging out” in person and on the Internet. Some people have been friends for many years, others have joined me for a brief chapter of my life. I appreciate you.
Over the years, many people I considered friends have passed on, all gone too soon. It is harsh and sad when this happens. For my last column of the year, I just want to remember some really cool people I had the honor of meeting who passed on in 2020.
As Milwaukee Krampusnacht, a celebration of the tradition of Krampus got started in 2017, Scott (aka the Chicago Krampus) was one of the first to sign up. He was a great advocate and ambassador for the event and got several of his friends involved. I was immediately impressed with his amazing Krampus costume and his energy for the event. After talking with him I knew Krampusnacht would not just be a fun party, but a special cultural celebration.
Scott told me he was excited that the Krampus tradition would carry on to a new generation and as such he was perfect to talk at our Kid’s Krampus Hour in 2018 and 2019. He told a room full of kids about the Krampus tradition while they worked on their own Krampus craft masks, then equally entertained adults as he crept around and posed for pictures.
He will be missed and remembered, always, but especially on December 5.
Scott’s personality naturally drew the camera to him and I think he’s the heart of the story in a nice segment Outdoor Wisconsin did on Milwaukee Krampusnacht:
Dale Pople aka “Superhero“
He was as colorful and bold as a comic book and he had a hobby that matched– trying to help people out. I met Dale while working on my first book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement. Dale lived in Clearwater, Florida (I met him in San Diego) where he was a familiar sight driving around in his bright red Supermobile. He was dedicated to lending a helping hand, but his internal struggles became too much and he took his life. It was a terrible shock to the Real-life Superhero (RLSH) community, where he was seen as one of the best and a mentor.
You can read a longer obituary I wrote on Dale here: “Death of a Superhero“
Richard McCaslin aka the “Phantom Patriot“
Richard died in 2018, but he was very much on my mind this year, for two reasons– my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness was released this year after many years of work. It tells Richard’s life story, a tale of comic book superheroes and conspiracy theory, from beginning to tragic end.
The second reason is 2020 has been an incredible, out-of-control period of conspiracy theory. A lot of people and ideas Richard told me about that seemed fringe and obscure are now part of our national conversation, discussed daily in the media. 2020 has been Richard’s year and I’ve often wondered what he would have made of all this.
You can read about Richard in American Madness and in a obituary I wrote here: “Richard McCaslin: An Obituary.”
Jason was someone who was a part of a former life of mine. I worked as a cashier at the Brady Street Pharmacy for about ten years (roughly 2000-2009) and saw Jason often– he was regular who was usually in for lunch or to have coffee with a client. He worked as an immigration attorney.
During this time, I got a divorce. It was emotionally painful, as you can imagine, and one day Jason pulled me aside and told me he would help me file the paperwork and join me in court for free, all I had to do was pay the filing fees. He really helped me deal with something I didn’t want to deal with.
I’m not telling this story to make you think I’m special, in fact the point is the opposite– Jason did this sort of thing all the time. He worked pro bono or charged way below a normal fee to help people who were struggling.
He was shot in September in a road rage type of incident, which is terrifying and tragic as he leaves behind a wife and two kids. Edgar Mendez wrote an article on Jason for Urban Milwaukee which quotes an economics professor, Luz Sosa, who Jason helped gain citizenship and she says it best:
“He was a citizen of the world and helped everyone regardless of color, religion, or creed.”
We sure could use a lot more of that. What a terrible loss.
Sarah Kozar & Paul Setser
Sarah Kozar and Paul Setser were well known in Milwaukee’s music scene. I first encountered Sarah, the Accordion Queen of Milwaukee, when I was asked to draw a flyer for a benefit show she was headlining with her group Sixty Watt Sarah. I didn’t know what a Sixty Watt Sarah was and what to draw, so I went with a robot playing a ukulele while a mad scientist danced a Highland fling in the background. Later, I would meet Sarah and I have found memories of having beers with her a couple times at a bar called Riverhorse. She was fun and radiant.
I encountered Paul many times, starting in the late 90s. I first met him when we both had shows on Milwaukee’s pirate radio station, the Wireless Virus. My show had several names, but my favorite was “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” For awhile my show was directly before or after Paul’s show. I wrote an article on Danny Price & the Loose Change, one of many bands Setser had been in over the years for the Shepherd Express way back in 2008, sitting in on one of their practice sessions at Setser’s house. I think I quoted him in an article I wrote on Circle A, where he did sound, door, DJed, and performed. In addition to Circle A, I also saw him frequently at the Brady Street Pharmacy when I worked there, he was often in to get coffee and food at the counter, writing out set lists and other notes.
My friend Ellen C. Warren wrote a nice profile on Paul for the Riverwest Currents neighborhood newspaper in 2018. You can read it here: riverwestcurrents.org/2018/04/neighbor-spotlight-april-2018-paul-setser.html
On November 28, there was a funeral march in memory of Paul, Sarah, and a musician named Dave Bolyard (who I never had the opportunity to meet). It started at Quarter’s, where Paul worked and organized shows and walked to the Circle A. In true Riverwest fashion, the crowd of 100-200 people just took over the street, as musicians played on.
As I walked with the crowd, I thought about all the people I’ve known over the years that have died and about all the deaths this year from COVID. I thought about all the people who marched in the streets this year demanding change. 2020 has been a hell of a year.
Rest in peace, my friends. I’m so glad I got a chance to meet you. You will not be forgotten.
This is my last column for 2020. The column will return January 8, 2021. Happy holidays and thanks for reading my words in this extra weird and sometimes terrible year. Happy trails!
You can support me and get a holiday gift for your beloved weirdos by buying my books. You can get a signed copy of my book American Madness from Lion’s Tooth: lionstoothmke.square.site/product/American_Madness_product/623
Signed copies of my other 4 books can be found on the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Square store (scroll down to the “Tea’s Weird Week Gift Shop” section): milwaukee-para-con.square.site
When I was a kid, I loved to play Mad Libs. When my parents would take me on a road trip I’d ask for nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc., and fill in the blanks. I also have a great memory of playing a game called The Merry Game of Fibber McGee and the Wistful Vista Mystery. Fibber McGee and Molly were a comedy duo with a popular radio show broadcast out of Chicago and this game with their namesake was published in 1940. I’m not sure where my parents got it, possibly from one of my grandparents or from a thrift store or rummage sale. I have fond memories of sitting at the kitchen table playing the game and laughing hysterically– there was a story in a booklet and you’d draw cards with random funny phrases on it to complete the sentences.
Both Mad Libs and the Fibber McGee game showed me how wonderfully fun, weird, and inappropriate words can be.
And so, when thinking of writing a special Tea’s Weird Week Christmas story, I decided to write a parody of A Christmas Carol with Mad Libs-style blanks. I posted my categories of word needs– some broad like “random noun,” other specific like “ridiculous word that starts with a G” to the Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group, and the members delivered. The blanks they filled in are in bold— sometimes answers paired well with each other and I used two or more. I think this story is both a great play on a Christmas classic and the ridiculousness of the Trump administration. This was really a lot of fun, and I hope this becomes a Tea’s Weird Week tradition. There has been a lot of heavy news this year, so being able to cut loose with some stupid good fun was a great way to begin a wrap on my 2020 writing (next week’s column is my last until January.)
Oh, and a warning– this story contains profanity. Lots of strange, strange profanity.
Trump’s Loser Christmas Carol
The scene is a snowy Christmas Eve in Washington DC, in the year 2020. Trump, as usual, is sitting in the Oval Office, retweeting every conspiracy theory he can find. But what follows next will be a Christmas story for our times.
“Stephen, come in here as fast as a narwhal with it’s ankle on fire,” Donald Trump called out to the hallway outside the oval office.
“You wanted to see me, sir?” Stephen Miller said, peeking into the doorway.
“Stephen, how many times have I told you, take off that ass wipe mask, you rat bastard.”
“Yes sir, Mr.Trump,” Miller said, removing his Klan hood.
“Now what do you think of my Christmas Eve tweet– Merry-We-Won-The-War-On-Christmas, to all my favorite lemmings!” Trump said, waving his hands like a slow loris playing a glockenspiel.
“What happened to my slogan idea, ‘Happy Buttplug Day, buddy?’” Miller pouted.
“Stephen, does it look like I have a broccoli tapdancing on my head? That’s the worst idea I ever heard. You’re fired! Get out and take this dollhouse with you, Trump said, pointing at the object on his desk.
Miller hung his head. “Yes sir,” he said as he headed out the door.
“Macaroni head! Well, I’ll be greased n’ fried,” Trump growled. “I’m surrounded by a clown car of shit-flinging monkeys.”
Trump got up and walked down the hall toward the residency, admiring Melania’s decorations. This year she had really outdone herself, hanging roosters and lasers upside-down from the ceiling, stringing toilets and stethoscopes on the wall, while statues of Bruce Wayne holding Uranus frolicked in a fountain of pus. Beautiful!
“Finally, just me and FOX,” Trump said as he sat down in front of the TV with a big bowl of fried lutefisk and limberger cheese smothered in a garbage water sauce.
“Good evening, it’s me, Sean Hannity, a man with the face of a flea, who is secretly a waterfall in disguise,” Hannity told the camera as the TV clicked on. “Later we’re going to talk about the radical left’s new plan to let smartwatches marry virgins, but first we’re getting a report that the Ghost of Richard Nixon claims President Trump will be visited by 3 ghosts this evening. Jerk faces! Ooh, that scares me more than a poopy pants meanie.”
Trump whipped out his phone and immediately began a tweet: “Ghosts? Sounds like a bunch of thumb-head losers! Go haunt someone else! Sad!” He suddenly felt a wave of post-COVID tiredness flow over him, so he leaned his head back, gently humming “WAP” by Cardi B (feat. Megan thee Stallion) as he drifted into sleep.
Trump felt a cold chill and blinked awake, squinting his eyes at an apparition floating in front of him. “Herman Cain, is that you? I thought you croaked off from that China flu!”
“Truuuump. I’m here to warn you about your ways!” The Ghost of Cain moaned, shaking the soups and witches chained around him.
“Bah, chucklefuck! You are a fake ghost, you know that?” Trump said angrily. “You may be an undigested bit of chocolate malt, a blot of chalupa, a crumb of chicken fries, a fragment of underdone McRibs. There’s more of secret sauce than grave about you, you hooplehead.”
“Wow, that’s maybe the most literary thing you’ve said in years,” Cain muttered. “Follow me, Trump so I can take you back through history…all the way back to March.”
Trump felt himself tumbling through a void, ass over tit, and he screamed “fuckstick!” until he landed with a thud on his feet, standing next to the Ghost of Cain.
“You loser ghost, we’re in the Oval Office! We could’ve just walked down the hall!”
“Ah, but we also traveled through time,” Ghost of Cain said, holding up a finger peevishly.
“Oh yeah, there’s past me! Hey handsome,” Trump said, trying to wave to his past self. Past Trump was leaning on his elbows on the desk and rubbing a macaroni through his hair while talking to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was standing in front of him.
“So you’re saying this virus gets absorbed through your spleen? Really?” Past Trump asked Fauci. “People got to walk around covering that up now?”
“Uhh. Well, sir, perhaps we can talk about anatomy…”
“Boring!” Past Trump said. Present Trump gave a thumbs up. “This science stuff is easy. We’ll just get people to take two Comets, drink a little Mr. Clean, and salute a patriotic brothel in the morning. Everything will be fine.”
“Sir, I think it’s important that you encourage social distancing…” Fauci shrugged.
“You didn’t listen to him…and I died!” Ghost of Cain told Trump, pointing at him in accusation.
“Yeah, yeah. Says you. You look pretty alive to me, I tell you. Get me out of here,” Trump scoffed. “And by the way, you’re fired.”
“What a dumb waste of time,” Trump said, settling back in his chair and grabbing the TV remote. “Time to watch more FOX. Oh look, my buddy Rudy is on,” he said, as an image of Rudy Giuliani appeared on the screen. He turned and stared wide-eyed at Trump, then lifted his arms out of the screen and crawled out like that creepy girl in The Ring.
“Donnie! It’s me, Donald, the Ghost of Christmas Present!” Giuliani gasped as he crawled toward him.
“Rudy, I didn’t know you were dead! And what the hell is that crap dripping down your face? It looks like toddler snot.”
“That’s my secret Cap, I’m always a little dead!” The Ghost of Giuliani said, wiggling his fingers at him. “That’s why they call me Rudy “Garfunkel Gumption” Giuliani! C’mon, let’s get fuckin’ spooky!”
Trump found himself floating at the top of a room next to the Ghost of Giuliani. Below were tables filled with people sorting and counting ballots and snacking on Rocky Mountain oysters.
“Look at them– hard at working finding evidence of voter fraud! Like a team of well oiled alley cats!” Trump said, rubbing his toenail in glee.
“Actually, Donald that’s the big problem, presently, we got nothin’! Nothin’! They counted all these ballots and Biden gained votes!”
“Really, Rudy? Well why don’t you go back to Four Seasons Total Landscaping and tell everyone about it and shove a rototiller in your armpit while you’re there.”
“Donald, come on, I already got problems! I got caught on tape trying to pull a wrench and a skeleton out of my pants!”
“You’re fired, Rudy. Get me out of here.”
“Aren’t there supposed to be three of these dingbat ghosts? Where’s the third? Waste of time!” Trump said as he paced in his room. The door slowly squeaked open and he saw a glowing figure who stepped forward. It was a ghostly vision of his son, Donnie Jr., dressed in hunting attire, with a huge dead crustacean slung over his shoulders.
“Daddy, look what I killed! I shot it in an expedition to the DMV.”
“That’s great Donnie. Sadly, though, I think it also killed you and you’re the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. But that’s great, bet you can get some great ratings for that. So tell me about the future– do I win again in 2024? Is my face on Mount Rushmore?”
“Well then, who is president– you or Ivanka? But most important, me– where is me?”
The Ghost of Donnie Jr. sighed sadly. “I’ll just show you.”
They materialized in a dim hallway. Sad music bounced off the concrete walls.
“What the hell is this place, Donnie Jr.?”
The Ghost of Donnie Jr. got goosebumps, clenched, peed his pants, then pointed down the hall. “It’s prison, dad.”
Trump squinted at a cell and saw himself sitting in an orange jumpsuit, a single strand of hair covering his bowling ball-like head, wailing away on something in his hands.
“What is that in my mouth, a horseradish?”
“It’s a harmonica, dad. You’ve got nothing to do in here but learn the 12-bar blues. Me, Eric, and Ivanka get sent up, too, and we play the keytar, kalimba, and maracas in the Trump Family Jail Band. We score a minor hit with our song ‘I Traded a Pardon for a Bucket of Hawaiian Pizza.’”
Trump frowned. “Pinche cabaron! Tell me, son– are these shadows of things that are like, a done deal or just, you know, like a fake news thing?”
“I hate you, Donnie Jr. I always have, you knuckle-sucking cretin. You’re fired.”
“I hate you, too, you human paraquat,” Donnie Jr. said, putting a ghostly arm around Trump. “Spoilers–I’ll bring you a harmonica, dad,” Donnie Jr. replied as they disappeared into the ether.
Trump materialized standing in front of his TV. Standing next to him was the Ghost of Richard Nixon.
“Wow, my hero Tricky Dick Nixon. You look just like the dipshit I always thought you were.”
“Did you learn your lesson, Krusty the Clown? Ready to change your ways?” Ghost of Nixon asked.
“Are you kidding me, Jojo the Klownzilla?” Trump smirked. Ghost of Nixon raised his eyebrow at him as Trump put his arm around him and they walked toward the window together. “I’d rather shove a rabid donkey down my pants than learn any stupid lesson.”
Trump spotted a young boy in a MAGA hat running by in the snow and threw open the window.
“You there! What day is it today?
“Today, sir?” The Boy replied. “Why, it’s Christmas Day, you trash!”
“Amazing. Fantastic. Tell you what. Bill me for 25 cents, then run down the street, go to every law office in town and get every lawyer you can find. We’re going to sue everyone– bigly– Charles Dickens, Santa Claus, Krampus, Frosty, Clarence, Ralphie, George Bailey, Tiny Tim, Emmet the Otter, the Elf on a Shelf, and all the readers of Tea’s Weird Week.
“Really? On Christmas?” Ghost of Nixon said, taken aback by his brazen villainy.
“Abso-fucking-lutely,” Trump replied, squeezing a slight smile. “Merry We-Won-the-War-on-Christmas, lick my hole, and to all a good night!”
My books are available wherever books are sold and make great holiday gifts for the lovable weirdos in your family. You can get signed copies of my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness from my friends at Lion’s Tooth (who, CONGRATS, are opening a brick and mortar store here in Milwaukee!) here: https://lionstoothmke.square.site/product/American_Madness_product/623
You can get signed copies of my other four books at my Square store here: https://milwaukee-para-con.square.site/
I’m very happy to be joining Quimby’s Bookstore (one of my favorite bookstores) for a virtual event this Tuesday, October 20, 7:30pm CST, It’s free to anyone in the world and will be livestreaming from their YouTube Page: www.youtube.com/user/QuimbysBookstore
Facebook event: www.facebook.com/events/2150860985077674
I’ll be talking about my new book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (Feral House). If you order through Quimby’s, you get an autographed nameplate for the book PLUS a bonus reprint of a comic (while supplies last) created by Richard McCaslin, aka the Phantom Patriot, the main subject of the book.
We’ll also being doing an online conspiracy theory trivia session. Tip: read American Madness and you’ll have the competitive edge as many questions (but not all) will be pulled from the book.
What could you win? Come on dowwwwwwn for these fantastic conspiracy-related prizes!
May the odds be ever in your favor! Order American Madness via Quimby’s here: https://www.quimbys.com/store/9655
Richard McCaslin died two years ago today. I wrote about his life in detail in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness. I realized he never received an obituary. I wrote one for him here.
RICHARD WILSON MCCASLIN was born to Ned and Elsie McCaslin on June 20, 1964 in Zanesville, Ohio. He was a Marine, Real-Life Superhero, stuntman, activist, and artist. Richard developed a passion for superhero comics when he was a kid and this interest in comic book mythology would shape the direction of his life. Richard was an honors student in high school and after he graduated, he served with the United States Marine Corps from 1982 to 1985, and was honorably discharged.
After he returned home, Richard bounced between Zanesville and wandering the country for several years, looking for a career that would utilize his talents and creative power. His hobbies included illustrating his own comic adventures and designing costumes based off his favorite characters– photos of him in these costumes appeared in comic book letters pages and in the quintessential magazine devoted to comic news, Wizard. In 1987, he attended the Kim Kahana Stunt School in Chatsworth, California, hoping to find a career in stuntwork. Nothing panned out in that field at first, but in 1996 and 97, he got to play one of his childhood heroes, Batman, in a stunt show at Six Flags Astroworld (in Houston).
Around this same time in the late 90s and early 2000s, Richard went through a tough time, losing both his parents and struggling to make connections and a career. He moved to Austin, where he created his own superhero persona, the Phantom Patriot, and moved briefly to Carson City before he stormed a place called the Bohemian Grove in California. He had seen a video created by conspiracy theory peddler Alex Jones (of InfoWars) that suggested a cabal of powerful men were sacrificing people, possibly children, in front of a statue of an owl inside of the retreat.
Richard was arrested at the Bohemian Grove and charged with five felonies. After his raid, Richard was called “crazy” and a “domestic terrorist,” but I’d like to note that he acted on faulty information and believed he would be rescuing people that were in danger. There were multiple times inside the Bohemian Grove that he could have shot someone, but he didn’t. Richard spent about 6 and a half years in prison, where he channeled his creative side by drawing a comic book that included an autobiographical account of his Bohemian Grove raid.
Upon his parole ending in 2011, Richard exercised his free speech rights by conducting peaceful protests, including a tour where he traveled coast-to-coast, protesting and seeing the country through his eyes. He conducted a protest in front of the Bohemian Club (which owns the Bohemian Grove) in downtown San Francisco in 2012. He moved to Las Vegas and then out to Pahrump, Nevada, where he finally settled down in a place he could call home. He lived a quiet life there, working with Las Vegas Motion Pictures to produce videos that showcased his creative talents, and regularly traveled to Las Vegas to protest and, of course, buy comic books.
His videos can be seen on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTSuMTR4SI1AZyEBt8WGIfA
I think it’s fair to say that the people that Richard befriended didn’t agree with or necessarily even understand his views. But no one that met him will forget him, and he made our lives more interesting and gave us plenty to think about. Few people got to see the side of Richard that was a caring, concerned, loyal friend.
In October of 2018 Richard traveled from Pahrump to Washington DC, choosing to take his life in his truck, parked outside of a Freemason temple. He died October 15. A small memorial took place on his property with friends and neighbors in November 2019. I hope Richard has found peace from the things that troubled him in his voyage here on Earth.
It’s been awhile since I posted a reading list (last one was in January) so I’m taking a break from conspiracy theory this week to talk about 3 titles I’ve read recently and 3 I hope to read soon, all non-fiction titles. Any time is a great time to read, but I suppose I have a particularly romantic vision of reading in fall. Tomorrow is my birthday– I don’t have any strange birthday adventures planned, but I do plan on reading and relaxing a bit. Click on the highlighted titles below to find links to them at Bookshop.org.
Read it, loved it
When I first heard about this book, I was a bit like “well, been there, done that,” as I wrote a book about Real-Life Superheroes in 2013 titled Heroes in the Night. I’m glad I read the book– Nowak does a first rate job telling this story. There’s some familiar names and history to those who know RLSH, but Nowak explored some fresh angles as well. I really enjoyed reading about a Superman tulpa, African interpretations of superheroes, and really great material on the Guardian Angels, as well as reading about teams I never got around to meeting.
Nowak presents an engaging book that explores comic book (and vigilante) history and ends up on street level with the Real-Life Superheroes in San Diego, Chicago, Orlando and beyond. It’s an accurate portrait of a fascinating, colorful, and timely subculture.
In American Madness, I wrote about the history and evolution of conspiracy theory, using a man named Richard McCaslin’s life story to talk about these themes. Darby has written an excellent book that tells the story of three women and their lives in the white power/ Alt-Right movements, and by extension a history and examination of who these people are. I read the entire book with much interest– it moves along without getting bogged down but is also informative. It’s frightening and disturbing– but it’s something we need to be informed on.
Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made by Steve Miller
Someday you’ll find out why I’m reading up on Juggalos, but for now I’ll just say that this is a good portrait of the Insane Clown Posse and their following, and very much my style– honest but not condescending, a great story of outsiders banding together. Will you be “down with the clown” after the book? Maybe.
Throw on the “To-Read” Pile
Earth A.D. The Poisoning of the American Landscape and the Communities That Fought Back by Michael Lee Nirenberg
One reason I was thrilled to have American Madness published with Feral House is that all of the books in their catalog are interesting, if not completely fascinating. Nirenberg’s book, about citizens that live in toxic zones fighting back, came out around the same time as mine and I’m looking forward to reading it.
Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels: Insulting the President, from Washington to Trump by Edwin L. Battistella
Edwin interviewed me for his website, Literary Ashland and after I was introduced to him I found he had written this book which looks like a fun history of insulting Presidents, including that polyester cockwomble bawbag fucknugget leather-faced shit-tobbaganist Trump (those insults were all lifted from Scottish Twitter, btw)
Sinister Swamps: Monsters and Mysteries from the Mire by Lyle Blackburn
Blackburn narrated my book trailer for American Madness (you can see it at the end of this post) and is just a cool guy– he’s in a hellbilly band called Ghoultown, narrates documentaries for Small Town Monsters, and has authored several books about cryptozoology cases of the south– I’ve read his books on the Beast of Boggy Creek and the Bishopville Lizard Man, which were both great, so I’m looking forward to Sinister Swamps. You can find it on his website: lyleblackburn.com
Oh yeah, please do read my book, too: American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness has been getting great reviews and is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop.org
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.'”
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
and wherever books are sold. Add “to-read” on Goodreads CLICK HERE.
Here’s my recent appearance on See You On The Other Side, where I discuss the book with Mike and Wendy:
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!
author, American Madness
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
–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