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Tea’s Weird Week: The Ghost of the Christmas Tree Ship

TeaWeirdWeek

I sent in my manuscript for my book American Madness which will be out August next year. I also have a little book out about a year from now called Wisconsin Legends & Lore, which is a collection of some classic Wisconsin folklore, ghost stories, and urban legends. One of the stories I read about while researching is the tragic story of the Rouse Simmons, also known as the Christmas Tree Ship, a nice Wisconsin Christmas ghost story for you this Friday the 13th.

Every holiday season, Chicagoans eagerly awaited the arrival of the Christmas Tree Ship, which would load up with evergreens in Michigan, then sail down to Chicago, where it would tie up to a dock. Families would head over, pick out a tree, and drag it back to their homes on a sled. The arrival of the Rouse Simmons meant the arrival of the holidays.

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The Rouse Simmons.

Captain Herman Schuenemann aka “Captain Santa” ran the business. He sold trees for fifty cents or a dollar, but he was known for generously donating trees to orphanages, hospitals, and poor families. His was not the only Christmas Tree Ship, but it would become the most famous. In November of 1912, Captain Schuenemann and his crew loaded 5,500 trees (imagine how piney that must have smelled!) into the Rouse Simmons, packing it as much as they could. There were supposedly bad omens, according to crew who declined to make the journey– rats seen abandoning ship, a crew totally an unlucky 13, and the ship leaving port on a Friday.

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Captain Schuenemann (center) and crew members.

On November 23, 1912, the Rouse Simmons was sailing past Two Rivers, Wisconsin on route toward Chicago. A terrible storm hit Lake Michigan. The Rouse Simmons, already an old ship and overladen with thousands of trees, was thrashed in the wind, ice forming on the sails and ripping them. The Christmas Tree Ship (and a few other boats on the lake that night) and all hands were lost. Christmas trees from the boat washed ashore for years afterward.

Rather than be deterred by the lake that had claimed Captain Schuenemann’s life, his wife and daughters took over the business. The new Captain Schuenemann was his brave daughter, Elsie, who led the delivery of trees that same winter season of 1912. The family kept the business going until railroads and highways made the Christmas Trees ships obsolete in the 1920s and 30s..

The wreck of the Rouse Simmons was discovered by a scuba diver in 1971. They found that there were still needleless, skeleton-like trees in the cargo hold.

Legend says that you can see the ghost ship of the Rouse Simmons on Lake Michigan on stormy winter nights or on the anniversary of the night it sunk, struggling in the choppy waters to get south to Chicago.

A nice ending to this story is that a non-profit group called Chicago’s Christmas Ship, with the help of the Coast Guard, now continues the Christmas Tree Ship legacy. Using the sturdy Mackinaw, they’ve sailed to Navy Pier the last 20 years with a cargo of Christmas trees, where they work with community organizations to get trees to people who can’t afford them to make their holiday a little brighter.

You can find out more and donate here: http://christmasship.org/

More ghost stories! I host the Milwaukee Ghost Walk- Ghosts of Christmas Past tour tonight, tomorrow, and next weekend!: https://americanghostwalks.com/wisconsin/milwaukee-ghosts-of-christmas-past/

Thrilling to have a “Tea’s Weird Week” column (reworked slightly) printed in this month’s Fortean Times (#397, “Zombies, Vampires, Killer Clowns…”)!

My latest book, Apocalypse Any Day Now makes a nice existential stocking stuffer: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow

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Tea’s Weird Week: Krampusland

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What a night! Yesterday was the third annual Milwaukee Krampusnacht. I’m the director of the event, but many people worked hard to make it a success. Volunteers, the Bavarian Bierhaus staff, vendors, musicians, Milwaukee Krampus Eigenheit, and all the parade performers worked together to make this fun holiday celebration come to life.

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Me and Kate made this Krampus Gate.

I was first introduced to Krampus in the pages of a book by Monte Beauchamp (editor of the great BLAB! magazine). I thought it was right up my alley. I began to see pictures and video from Krampusnacht celebrations around the country. Bloomington, Indiana has one, New Orleans has one…but not Milwaukee?! I invited Minnesota Krampus to the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference in 2016, and they drew a lot of interest. I met Krampus enthusiast Robert Schonecker and we agreed the Milwaukee needed to experience a Krampus horde in action.

We had no idea it would have such a huge interest. In 3 years we’ve nearly quadrupled in size. Krampus is a hit! Why? I think people like being part of, or witness, this tradition. I know I’ve loved monsters since I was a kid. I also think Krampus is the antidote for all the holiday stress and pressure bullshit and the sugary Hallmark stuff.

As I said, big interest. This year we took a first step expanding into the beer garden with the Bells & Chains Tavern as well as a bonfire performance. We had great music inside, a sold out Kid’s Krampus Hour (and KinderKrampus parade) and a fantastic vendor floor.

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I even got to participate in the parade this year with my puppet, Count Krampula. My sister made the mask and I made the rest.

I’ve seen a couple of complaints from people about something that ruined the experience for them– they couldn’t find parking, they didn’t get snappy food service, not enough elbow room. I’m open to constructive criticism, but when you work really hard on something (I can’t even guess how many hours I’ve worked on the event) and someone just walks by and lifts their leg and pees on it, it’s a sour feeling.

Now that I vented that out, I’m glad to say that these complainers will have nothing to jaw about next year (well, they will always find something, I suppose). We are expanding into Heidelberg Hall in the beer garden, which will be serving food and drink. With both the Bierhaus and the Beer Garden open (and entertainment in both locations), we will have plenty of room to circulate people. There is another parking lot at the far end of one of the soccer fields we expand into, too.

I’m choosing to focus on the positive– the majority of attendees were very happy with the event and had a good time. I saw hundreds of people dancing, laughing, catching selfies with Krampus, walking out with beautiful, unique items from the vendor floor, and enjoying a delicious Bells & Chains beer.

Cheers to all of you, for making December 5 my favorite day of the year!

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Here’s a few event photos from TMJ 4: https://www.tmj4.com/homepage-gallery/the-wonderfully-strange-and-creepy-celebration-of-krampusnacht-milwaukee-photos

We will have an album of photos uploaded soon on the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Facebook: www.facebook.com/milwaukeeparanormalconference

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Tea’s Weird Week: Greetings From Beautiful Eroda

TeaWeirdWeek

Conspiracy Month at Tea’s Weird Week wraps up today. 

Nothing beats a vacation to the beautiful island of Eroda, from the “stunning cliffs” to the “rolling grassy hills.” And then there’s the “quaint villages, lively pubs, and bustling fish markets” of the island’s four villages– Marmoton, Garona, Martin’s Heaven, and Yuna. It’s a place to enjoy fresh seafood and check out the developing art scene.

There’s just one downer about vacationing in Eroda– it doesn’t exist.

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My friend forwarded me to this story on Twitter, where a guy named Austin noticed an ad for “Visit Eroda” and his posts trying to figure out if the place exists went viral. Visit Eroda has a Twitter, Instagram, and website.

A tweet asking people for their favorite Erodean memories has over a hundred hilarious replies from people LARPing along. Here’s a couple:

I stopped by the castle hoping to just bask in history, and ended up running into an archaeology student studying for her PHd, I learned a lot about how the cultures that used to inhabit Eroda lived.

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It was a bit odd that the inhabitants only wore white (I’d packed colourful clothes, like a chump), but their constant chanting soon put me at ease. My friend Beth left me a note to say she left early – silly thing missed the feast! The meat was great – I think it was pork? Yum!

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A photo purporting to be Eroda from the Visit Eroda website.

What is Eroda? A joke? A class project that took on a life of its own? A marketing publicity stunt? Probably one or more of those three. But it reminds of a couple things I’ve encountered in paranormal and conspiracy research.

The first thing that popped to mind was the “Mandela Effect” which suggests there is a parallel reality where things are similar but not quite the same. The name comes from people who are insistent that they remember Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 80s. Mandela was (in reality) released from prison and died in 2013. The most amusing example of Mandela Effect to me is people collectively remembering a movie about a genie starring the comedian Sinbad titled Shazaam (which doesn’t exist, at least in this universe) and a similar movie that stars Shaquille O’Neal as a rapping genie called Kazaam (1996). People swear they saw the Sinbad movie and remember being surprised when such a blatant rip-off followed. So perhaps Eroda is a real vacation spot in this alternate reality.

A lot of fake ideas are spread on the Internet, and as they are passed along, a certain percentage of people believe them. While Eroda likely started as a hoax, how many people will believe this place actually exists? Concepts like Flat Earth and QAnon have a growing number of followers because videos filled with made-up information suck people into a YouTube rabbit hole. One college teacher was fired for making his class watch QAnon videos, and I expect you’ll see more conspiracy theory being taught as facts. Will Eroda make its way into a geography class someday by a teacher who believes it to be real?

Milwaukee Ghost Walk- Ghosts of Christmas Past tour starts tonight. It’s a fun tour that I’m doing about 7 or 8 times over the next month. Tickets here: www.americanghostwalks.com 

Speaking of scary holiday traditions, today is Bleccch Friday–  take it away, Brett Newski!

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Tea’s Weird Week: Dallas, Part 2: JFK Assassination Conference

TeaWeirdWeek

Conspiracy Month continues on Tea’s Weird Week as he continues to report live from Dallas…

I’m still here in Dallas. Tomorrow is my last day. I decided to come down here because I noticed the JFK conference which involves what is sometimes called the “Assassination Community” was happening a week after the Flat Earth conference. Both conferences have been interesting experiences. The JFK conference has been a smaller, older crowd, and it hasn’t been as eye-popping as the flat earth one (but what else could be?) Much like the International UFO Congress I attended years ago (while working on my book Monster Hunters) I find some of the talks to be really interesting and others are…well, pretty out there.

This is the last material gathering expedition for my upcoming book American Madness (out August 2020). The JFK assassination might be my last experience, but the event is where it all begins.

Before I went to this week’s conference, I stopped in the Sixth Floor Museum, housed in the former Texas Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy as he passed by in a motorcade. Of course, the people I’ve heard give talks these last couple days don’t believe that story. They have a wide range of ideas who the secret hand was organized the shooting, with bullets coming from all different directions– the famous grassy knoll, a bridge above the road, from within the motorcade itself. Oswald was just a patsy, they say. The nebulous “Deep State” are the actual murderers.

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The vantage point of the grassy knoll.

This picture grabbed my attention. It was taken shortly before shots rang out.

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From the Sixth Floor Museum.

56 years ago today, President Kennedy was murdered and the course of the world was forever changed. The president died and our America the Conspiracyland was born.

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I’ve got a lot of notes and literature from my Dallas conference experiences and another day of the conference tomorrow. Then I’m heading home. Which is good– I need some time to chill out, collect my thoughts, then after a hot minute of rest work on my manuscript and Milwaukee Krampusnacht (milwaukeeparacon.com/krampus).

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Tea’s Weird Week: Dallas, Part 1: Live from the Flat Earth International Conference

TeaWeirdWeek

OR… STOP THE FLAT EARTH, I WANT TO GET OFF

November is Conspiracy Month at Tea’s Weird Week. Reporting live from Dallas…

Well, as I mentioned on Facebook, here in Dallas is probably where my story jumps the shark or falls off the edge of reality. The edge of the Flat Earth, that is. Yes, this “globehead” (which is what suckers like me who believe the world is a sphere are called) went undercover to hang out at the Flat Earth International Conference the last two days here in a suburb called Frisco in a hotel conference center.

You’ll be able to read more about the experience in my upcoming book, American Madness (Feral House, August 2020) but for now, here are some random notes, observations, and a couple photos.
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  • First of all, yes, these people really do believe the earth is flat. Or at least they think that they think they do. I think it’s more cult-like, a group of people looking for a place to belong.
  • Some demographics: my estimate was 300-500 attendees. Mostly white, but not exclusively. Wide age range and I would say more men than women, but not by much. Some observations from my note pad, people that looked like “eccentric professors” “kind of punk rock” “family: man with beard, woman in prairie dress, 3 kids–Amish? Mormon?” “bros with backward baseball caps” “Latino bodybuilder with Flat Earth tank top” “sunburnt bald guy with Snidley Whiplash mustache.” But a lot of people looked like regular everyday people you might see in line at the grocery store.
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  • Enemies of Flat Earthers, called out repeatedly during the conference: NASA (“masonic and Satanic,” as one speaker said), Neil Degrasse-Tyson, Bill Nye, MythBusters (all guilty of ridiculing flat earth), Albert Einstein, Elon Musk, and mainstream media. They did seem to admire Nikola Tesla.
  • There were about a dozen young kids in attendance. I did make me really sad to think of these kids growing up being told that space and space exploration and science in general is FAKE. Science is very cool, kids.
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  • I recommend the Netflix doc on FLat Earthers.  Behind the Curve. Most of the people in that doc were here, including main subject Mark Sargent.
  • There are religious flat earthers, who believe the Bible provides clues that the earth is flat. Then there are flat earthers who have pieced together some pseudo-science experiments, like bring a carpenter’s level onto an airplane or shining a laser across a flat area to prove there’s no curvature.
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  • One moment I kept thinking about– during a break I went across the street to get a slice of pizza from 7-11. I sat on a bench outside to scarf it down. A guy came walking up and gave a little wave. “Hey, fellow Flat Earther,” he said. “Hey man!” I replied. He looked like he wanted to say something more, but he shyly turned away. I saw him around the conference, sitting by himself. He seemed awkward, lonely, in need of a friend. He probably fell down a YouTube hole (that’s how many Flat Earthers are converted) and ended up here.
  • The most popular flat earth pseudoscience podcast is GLOBEBUSTERS (their experiments were featured in the Behind the Curve documentary). I got to see a recording of the podcast including a live performance of the Globebusters theme song! It’s not quite a parody of the Ghostbusters song, but kind of an odd remix and it’s been stuck in my damn head all day.

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    That’s a giant level on top of the car.

  • Speaking of music, Flat Earthers have a rich output of music geared toward them, which makes them unique in conspiracy culture (where is the anti-vaxx or Reptilian themed songs?) Flat Earth Man sings country tunes on flat earth related topics. He sadly didn’t perform live this year, but he popped up in no less than four Flat Earth Video Awards nominees and I bought a signed copy of his CD.There also is a flat earth hip hop genre, there were a couple of live performances of booty shakin’ hits like “Lean Flat.” I think I’ll be writing a column or article on flat earth hip hop someday soon.Also performing were a couple of vocalists I’d describe as…pop? Soul? Imagine Mariah Carey singing about how NASA lies and believing your own eyes about not seeing a curvature on the earth.
  • I was excited to see a “Flat Earth Game Show” but it turned out to be a scene they’re shooting in a movie about Flat Earth…but the cast were all Flat Earthers (Mark Sargent was the host).
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  • When I saw a comedy show listed, I had high hopes it would be like an open mic where Flat Earthers roasted globeheads or made Seinfeld like observations about day-to-day life on flat earth. I did get to see a bit of this at the awards show, but the main comedy event was Alt-Right comedian Owen Benjamin who has been shunned by mainstream comedy and has found refuge here in the fringe. His set bashed gay and transgendered people, he ranted a defense about being able to use the N-bomb in a comedy bit, blah blah– complete shit. Bad form, Flat Earthers.
  • I watched about six talks, including “NASA: Going Nowhere Since 1958” and “Coming Out of the Flat Earth Closet: A Call to Activism.” In between, I checked out the vendor floor, spread down the conference hallway. It included flat earth models, clocks, posters, self-published books, DVDs, clothes, jewelry, and busts of Nikola Tesla.
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  • I was really excited to see the “Flat Earth Mega Panel” and submitted questions to it, but because the other speakers were longwinded, it was canceled. Flat Earthers not only don’t use globes, they also don’t like to use watches, apparently.
  • The conference ended with the Flat Earth Video Awards, aka the “Flattys.” It featured live music performances, and included awards to “Best Flat Earth Awakening Video,” “Best Flat Earth Proof Experiment” and “Best Flat Smacking.””Flat smacking” is when you drop the truth bomb that the world is flat on a poor, unsuspecting globehead, you see.  Now you know! The conference was a very interesting experiment, and I’m excited to write on it in more detail for American Madness. Time for me to get to work, my friends–  as the Flate Earthers like to say– keep it flat!IMG_5564

     

    Next week: My conspiracy journey continues here in Dallas. Will things get even weirder? I don’t think that’s possible. Will they remain reasonably weird? Yeah. 

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Tea’s Weird Week: Now That’s What I Call Music Conspiracy Vol.2

TeaWeirdWeek

November is Conspiracy Month at Tea’s Weird Week. Shit is about to get real weird, real fast.

Last month I did a column titled “9 Music Conspiracies and Urban Legends,” where I wrote about some classics like Paul McCartney being dead, Elvis (and Tupac) being alive, the 27 Club, and more. There were some stories that didn’t make round one, so I thought I’d start “Conspiracy Month” with a sequel column. To preserve this list, I’m picking up numbering where I left off with number 10.

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(10.) Ace of Base is Secretly a Nazi Band

I laughed when I heard this one. There’s no way the Swedish sugary pop of Ace of Base, omnipresent in the 90s, could be some white power message in disguise, right? But as it turns out, there’s a spot of truth in here.

It comes down to one of the band members, Ulf Ekberg, being in a band called Commit Suiside, a Gothenburg white power band that was around from 1983-86. Vice wrote a story on it here: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/rm35nr/ace-of-bases-secret-nazi-past
Ekberg has tried to spin his involvement, saying he wasn’t part of recordings where extremely racist lyrics were recorded but he also expressed this:

“I told everyone I really regret what I did. I’ve closed that book. I don’t want to even talk about it, that time does not exist in me any more. I closed it and I threw the book away in 1987. I took the experience from it, I learned from it. But that life is not me. It’s somebody else.”

Did Ekberg’s Ace bandmates see “the sign” of this troubled past before they hired him to the Base? That’s unknown.

(11.) A Couple Things About Marilyn Manson

I heard both of these urban legends while in high school (or shortly after). I don’t have time right now, but I’d love to look into how urban legends like this spread before the Internet. Radio shows? Written publications? Just a whisper campaign that spread across the country? Because these didn’t originate in the halls of my high school. Anyway, the first Marilyn Manson myth is that he is actually the child actor who played the character of Paul Pfeiffer on the 80s sitcom The Wonder Years. Paul was main character Kevin (Fred Savage)’s geeky sidekick. The actor was actually Josh Saviano, not Brian Warner (aka Marilyn Manson).

The other myth was that Marilyn Manson had removed one of his bottom ribs so that he could enjoy auto-fellatio. There are also myths that Cher and several other celebrities have gotten ribs removed to have a slimmer waist. Snopes wrote about it here: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/getting-waisted/

(12.) Backmasking Satanic Panic

This is another one I heard in high school and was quite intrigued with. Certain records are said to have secret messages if you play the record backward. A classic example being The Beatles song “Revolution #9,” which if played backward is supposed to say “turn me on, dead man.”

In the great moral Satanic Panic of the 1980s and early 90s, the hand of Satan was seen everywhere– Dungeons & Dragons, comic books, and especially heavy metal. Hidden Satanic messages heard in rock and heavy metal were prolific. (Some bands later did put these hidden messages in, inspired by the hype). Led Zepplin was said to have an ode to Satan in “Stairway to Heaven” while the Judas Priest song “Better By You, Better Than Me,” was said to inspire suicide attempts. “You know Satan holds the keys to the lock,” is heard when you play the Cheap Trick song “Gonna Raise Hell” backward and “See you in hell!” is heard in the Grim Reaper song “Final Scream.”

As I mentioned, some later examples were probably added deliberately by bands after backmasking was established as a thing. Pareidolia is the wonderful thing where your brain sees faces, shapes, and items in woodgrains, architecture, pictures of fog, etc. It’s what’s happening when a lot of people think they have a picture of a ghost or a Bigfoot lurking in the woods. I’m not sure what the audio equivalent is, but I think that’s what’s going on with some of these.

VH1 has some clips of backmasking you can listen to here: http://www.vh1.com/news/52612/15-songs-satanic-backwards-messages/

(13.) The Killer Jerry Lee Lewis

Was Jerry Lee Lewis, nicknamed the Killer (for his throttling of the piano) actually guilty of murder? Lewis has been married seven times (so far). He had a famous controversy when he married his third wife, who was his 13-year-old first cousin, once removed in 1957. His 5th wife, Shawn Stephens, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 1983. The couple had been married just 77 days.

It looked like there was blood underneath Shawn’s fingernails, bruises on her body, and there were scrapes on Lewis’s hands. There was blood all around the house. Shawn had called her mom the night before saying she wanted to leave Lewis, but he wouldn’t let her. Lewis was abusing alcohol and speed. Despite all of the pieces of evidence, Shawn’s death was dismissed as “an accident.” Did The Killer get away with murder? Tea’s Weird Week is not a court of law, but it looks likely.

For more, including how local law enforcement probably helped the case go away, I recommend listening to the Disgraceland podcast episode titled “Jerry Lee Lewis: The Killer and Getting Away with Murder.” It talks about other Jerry Lee Lewis myths including tales that he sold his soul, was a vampire that fought in the Civil War, and the time he drove his car into Graceland’s gates, trying to assassinate Elvis.

(14.) The Andrew W.K. Factory

I mentioned this in the last column I wrote when I mentioned celebrities being replaced by doppelgangers, but wanted to explore a bit further. The Andrew W.K. conspiracy alleges that Andrew is not a singular person, but a sort of Mall Santa persona that is franchised out to play different shows.

Her’es Andrew addressing his frustration with the conspiracy in a Sept. 2017 interview with Ashley Naftule of the Phoenix New Times:

This idea that I don’t exist … I really don’t know what to think of it. There are times where I’ve gotten really angry about it, where I’ve been really frustrated by it, and there are times where I just wish I could control what other people think of me. But there’s nothing I can do to control what other people think. There are other times where I think I can control that perception if I work really hard, but then I see other performers have similar accusations that there are multiple versions of them too …

It’s just this archetypal myth that people go through with all sorts of people. But it does seem to be specifically about music figures. I’ve never heard anyone say there’s more than one Michael Jordan. But with Paul McCartney and Avril Lavigne or Taylor Swift or me – I don’t know why that is. Nobody says, “Oh, there’s more than one Bradley Cooper.”

He’s right, though I can think of a couple non-musician doppelganger conspiracies. As I mentioned in my last column, See You On The Other Side did a doppelganger episode (“Avril is Dead“) where they addressed the conspiracy that the Ultimate Warrior was replaced by the WWF. There’s also a theory that a sick Hillary Clinton was replaced by longtime Hillary impersonator Teresa Barnswell.

Anyway, it is my belief that there is only one Andrew W.K. out there– no one else can party that hard.

(15.) The Curse of Jelly Roll Morton

I read this classic story in a comic by Robert Crumb, “The Voodoo Curse of Jelly Roll Morton,” originally published in Raw vol.1 no.7 in 1985. I read it in The Complete Crumb Comics Vol.16 (2002). The comic was based on an interview jazz great “Jelly Roll” Morton gave in 1938. Morton attributed his success to using hoodoo in New Orleans, but also told about how the hoodoo boomeranged back to him in Brooklyn when a co-worker in the music industry cursed him.

As business began to decline, Morton suspected a curse and found a mysterious powder hidden under the rug near the entryway of his office. He saw a mystic Madame Elise who told him to take a bath with some special oils and to burn all his clothes in a bonfire. But he continued to lose work and felt he never broke the curse.

#ClownWatch2019: September, 25, 2019: Fort Madison, Iowa: Continuing reporting on frightening clown sightings, police gave chase in Fort Madison back on September 25 after receiving a report of a “menacing clown.” The clown jumped a fence and escaped capture.

October 29, 2019: Not a clown mask, but worth mentioning. Today reports on an Indiana man, Evan Zimmerman, who likes to dress as Mike Meyers from Halloween and sneak onto people’s property:
“I’ll stand in random people’s yards and look at them through the window until they notice me standing there,” Evan revealed. “I carry a fake butcher knife.”

Evan, I’m not sure you thought this hobby through.

Next week: I’ll be on the road and reporting from a…uh…very interesting location.

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Tea’s Weird Week: Reflections of a Ghost Guide

TeaWeirdWeek

Today is the best holiday, Halloween (a snowy one here in Wisconsin) and I was trying to think of something appropriately eerie. This is “Tea’s Weird Week” after all. Then I thought about ghost tour season ending (but not really– I’m doing tours tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday and then a “Ghost of Christmas Past” tour in later November and December) and decided to reflect on being a tour guide for Milwaukee Ghost Walks. I’ve been running tours since June and here’s some of my favorite tour memories this year. Thanks to everyone who has joined me!

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One of the many groups I led on the Third Ward tour this year.

-The first stop on the tour includes a story of a ghostly antique telephone ringing. I’m explaining the bells, when a guy cruises by on his bike and rings his bike bell. Really well placed sound effect!

-Another well-timed effect– at a stop by the river, I talk about Lake Monster sightings from 1890. I was telling this story one night, there had been a lot of rain so the river was moving quickly. I’m telling this story and everyone is laughing and pointing at the river. I turn around and there’s a big, monster shaped log cruising down the river. “Looks like we found it!” I told the group.

-Speaking of, that story also mentions a local newspaper ad from a saloon that offers a reward for the capture of the Lake Monster so they can serve it as a lunch special. That led to the most interesting question I got this year from someone on the tour: “What does a Lake Monster taste like?” I told her I did not have the answer.

-It was really fun to take two of my tour groups to the Under One Moon Fest in Catalano Square in August, celebrating the Apollo 11 mission. A giant replica moon hung over the square and we stopped for a few minutes to take pictures and enjoy some great music from Nineteen Thirteen.

-I always love hearing the noise people make when I tell a gruesome bit of a story, ha ha.

-My friends show up once in a while to take the tour. Always glad to see you!

-I bring along a copy of my book Monster Hunters with me to help introduce who I am and at the end of the tour mention I got that copy for sale. I sell a copy here and there. It’s always nice to sign a book for someone and send it to someone’s home instead of sitting in a box in my basement.

-Oh yeah and a special shout out to the guy cruising around Water Street over and over on his motorcycle this July blasting smooth jazz. “Who does this guy think he is, Kenny G?” I asked the tour. Big laughs.

-Max Mitchelson of the Shepherd Express wrote a nice article about the Milwaukee Ghost Walks. They interviewed Allison Jornlin (who founded and wrote the tour) and threw in a quote from Yours Truly for good measure. You can read it here: “Remembering Milwaukee History Through the Paranormal.”

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope your holiday is filled with witches, goblins, ghosts, demons, Chupacabras, Lake Monsters, Bigfoot, Count Dracula, Freddy Krueger, and a black cat riding a broomstick screeching “Happy Meow-loweeeeen!

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Dude, those aren’t elves. (Halloween card from 1910)

P.S. November is Conspiracy Month here at Tea’s Weird Week. You’ve been warned. 

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Tea’s Weird Week: Random Acts of October

TeaWeirdWeek

Real-life Superheroes, paranormal investigators, conspiracy theory: classic Krulos topics. Three short things related to these subjects have crossed my brain this week and got collected here.

The Legendary Jack

Let me tell you about this guy I know, Jack. Jack is frustrated. It’s hard to catch a break in this world. You put heart and soul into a project, you pour in this passion and you are ignored. Meanwhile some putz will launch into the stratosphere of fame for just the stupidest thing you can think of. It’s a drag, man.

One day recently, Jack told us on Facebook, he was at the check out of the grocery store. While scribbling out a check for the groceries, counting the pennies in his head, he noticed an ad on the check out lane for a guy he used to work with at an oil changing place. This guy now had his own mortgage company. You can bet this guy doesn’t worry if he’s buying generic or name brand peanut butter!

But Mortgage Man Dan will never know the thrill of leaping off the corner post of a wrestling ring, sweat and adrenaline flying off of him as he tackles Baron Von Retchblubber (or whatever his name is) while a crowd in rapture cheers, letting rip a primal scream. Because this Jack is former wrestler JACK T. RIPPER, famous hero (or heel is probably the right term) of a hundred fights!

But wait, there’s more! Zzzzzzap! This same Jack is the mighty Razorhawk, one of these Real-Life Superheroes, founder of the Great Lakes Alliance, founder of the HOPE events.   I joined him in the search for a missing college student in Saint Paul, on a patrol on the streets of Minneapolis, and for a HOPE event in San Diego. I wrote about it in my book Heroes in the Night. Years later, I saw him at a HOPE event in Chicago. BAM!

This Razorhawk, in fact, was the winner of a YouTube reality show titled Academy of Heroes. His co-stars were his Real-life Superhero colleagues: the noble Knight Owl, the nimble Nyx, the dashing Danger Man, the philosophical Phantom Zero, the generous Good Samaritan, and the..uh…mouthy Motor-Mouth! By the end of the show, Razorhawk was declared winner by none other than comic legend Stan Lee himself. Excelsior! 

Real life superheroes with Tea Krulos.Photographs by Paul Kjelland

Razorhawk, the first night I met him in 2009. Photo by Paul Kjelland.

And now, Jack has a more mellow project, but a very cool one. He’s now here, as his motto says, “to chew bubblegum and build models,” but he happens to be “all out of bubblegum.” Now known as the JACK OF MODELS, he has created his own YouTube show in which he carefully builds a variety of car and figure models, shows you how it’s done, and offers a few tricks and tips so you can enjoy this hobby, too.

I’m a fan. You can find the show here:

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv2ZgO3bbhW7rq-CdcYhskw

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JackOfModels/

Chicago Ghosts

My most read column this month was a reprinting of a rarely seen article I wrote years ago titled “The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter” on Alexandra Holzer, star of the new reality show The Holzer Files. Just recently I had the chance to profile two interesting paranormal investigators for the October issue of Scandinavian Traveler magazine: Dale Kaczmarek of Ghost Research Society, who has been on the supernatural trail since the 1970s, and Ursula Bielski of Chicago Hauntings, who organizes the annual Chicago Ghost Con. Both have written books and offer tours and are all around experts on Chicago ghostlore.

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Dale Kaczmarek with his map of Chicagoland ghost encounters. Photo from Scandinavian Traveler/ Scott Thompson

You can read the article, “Meet the real-life ghostbusters,” here: https://scandinaviantraveler.com/en/places/meet-the-real-life-ghostbusters

I also compiled Dale and Ursula’s picks for “Chicago’s top 5 haunted locations”: https://scandinaviantraveler.com/en/places/chicagos-top-5-haunted-locations

Denver Airport Conspiracy

Ever since it was built, Denver International has been the subject of several conspiracy theories, including secret tunnels, weird art, a cursed horse statue, Illuminati meetings, and more. It’s pretty wild and every time I fly west, I hope for a layover at the airport.
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While blocking off part of the airport for construction this month, the airport decided that instead of traditional “pardon our dust” signs, they would go full troll with a series of signs alluding to their reputation, including ones that mention the Illuminati, aliens, Reptilians (aka Lizard People), and more. Check out more of the signs here: https://www.curbed.com/2018/9/7/17832102/denver-airport-conspiracy-theories-signs-construction

And if you like conspiracy, well, hang on to your butts because November is Conspiracy Month here at Tea’s Weird Week. I’m doing  some conspiracy related travel mid-November so I’ll be doing some reporting from the road. It’s going to be…interesting.

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Tea’s Weird Week: October is Mad Ghost Boo Biz

TeaWeirdWeek

Hold out your hand and I’ll sprinkle some candy corn into it. This month sales of rubber spiders and bats and plastic fangs will reach an all time high for the year. Expect to see a lot of mutant works like SPOOPY and SPOOKTACULAR and GHOSTOBER. And for people in the paranormal biz, we are in the midst of what June is like for the wedding industry.

I first got a taste of the ghost biz while working on my book Monster Hunters. October is when the mainstream world wants to visit haunted houses, go on ghost tours, watch scary movies, drink pumpkin spice lattes, go on tag-along ghost investigations, and there is an industry there happy to oblige them.

You can make some money in the supernatural biz if you’ve got the chops. But you need a certain je ne GHOST quoi to succeed. Bad Halloween puns may or may not help.

Here’s 5 ways you can make money in the paranormal field.

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Boo-tiful ghost portrait by Anna Huffman. Check out her ArtisticallyAnna etsy page here: www.etsy.com/shop/artisticallyanna

(1.) Show off your expertise as a speaker. If you put in some work you can be expert on a story, incident, or entire field. This time of year libraries, conferences, and festivals often have guest speakers who do presentations on local lore, UFO sightings, ghost investigation techniques, etc. I have a few friends who have been successful doing this, but it takes a lot of work and you need to be a good public speaker (that’s an ability that can be learned. Being weird, though, isn’t.)

(2.) Run tours. This is something I do, and it’s fun. It can be repetitive doing the same tour over and over, but when you have a tour group that’s engaged in what you’re saying it’s a really good feeling to share the hidden history of your city.

Be sure to learn how ro promote your tour and that reminds me to tell you to click on this link to Milwaukee Ghost Walks and to my one day only SHOCKTOBER event, the Riverwest Ghost Tour!

(3.) Write books/ articles. There is some money to be made here (but don’t be unrealistic), but be sure you’re doing it cause you got a fire burning inside you to do it, not cause you’re looking for a quick paycheck. If you’re passionate about researching your subject it’ll show and word will spread and more people will buy your book. Some niche publications will pay to publish articles, but it’s going to take some work finding them. Regional publications are usually interested in spooky local lore this time of year.

(4.) Get on one of those goofy reality shows. I don’t know what a deal like this entails and what sort of money is in it. I’ve been contacted by quite a few reality show production companies over the years, mostly regarding Real-Life Superheroes and couple for paranormal themes. In almost all of these situations, the companies are just trying to get me to hand over my contacts list and research and to guide them through a topic they know nothing about FOR FREE. This totally wastes time I could be spending writing ghost puns, you damn GHOULS!

(5.) Sell paranormal related product, like gadgets: Psst. Hey you. Yeah, you. You look like you could use the new Ghost-O-Meter T-1000 (patent pending). Yeah you just press this button and point and zoop! zop! zeep! look at all them green lights, wouldya! There’s definitely a ghost standing next to these electrical lines! Yes, we do take cards! 

#ClownWatch2019: October 8, 2019: RED ALERT: there’s been tons of buzz on creepy clowns over the last month to tie in with the It:Chapter 2 and Joker (see my own take HERE) but here at #ClownWatch2019 we report on actual clown sightings or projected clown encounters. High probability for this Halloween season as an authority no less than Good Housekeeping reports that the number one Googled costume is…Pennywise, the killer clown from It. Be safe out there!

Links:

Read where all this ghost biz got started for me in Monster Hunters.

If you go on the Milwaukee Ghost Walk Third Ward tour, you can see “My Haunted Baseball Card Collection” in person.

On October 27 you can take a tour of “Riverwest’s Ghost District” with me. There’s also a VoiceMap audio tour version you can download.

FANGS to FangirlNation for a review I could sink my teeth into:
“It’s hard for the reader not to find themselves launching headlong in the book and coming out with either new or stronger opinions on the other side.”
https://fangirlnation.com/2019/10/08/apocalypse-any-day-now/

Have a GHOULISHY GOOD time following me on:

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Tea’s Weird Week: 9 Music Conspiracies and Urban Legends

TeaWeirdWeek

I thought of the idea for this column when I saw a ridiculous (but kinda awesome) theory circulating on Facebook the other day that Jimi Hendrix and Morgan Freeman are one and the same. I’m wrapping up a book on conspiracy culture titled American Madness, which doesn’t delve too much into music theories, although there is one about Les Claypool of Primus (no, sadly it doesn’t involve playing “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” backwards). Maybe I’ll write more in-depth on all this someday, but meanwhile here’s a list of some conspiracy theories and urban legends involving musicians.

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(1) Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire and became Morgan Freeman.

As I mentioned, this story kicked off the idea for this week’s column (I added the flaming guitar bit myself as a good conspiracy needs embellishment). The theory suggests that Hendrix faked his death in 1970 and rebranded himself as Academy Award winning actor Freeman. As Snopes notes, the two do have a passing resemblance, but Morgan had already launched his acting career by 1964 while Hendrix was still touring, so we’re going to need to add time/space travel to this theory for it to make sense.

(2) Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil.

This is the most classic music myth I can think of. I’m adding Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson, a biography on the blues musician (from one of my publishers, Chicago Review Press) to my winter reading list (as soon as I get through my fall one). Johnson, the story goes, was a mediocre guitar player until he disappeared from the juke joints he frequented for a period of time. When he returned, his music skills had increased incredibly and the story was that he sold his soul at the crossroads for his new abilities to old Hornhead himself. The stories and Johnson’s songs like “Me and the Devil Blues” and “Hellhound on My Trail” forever gave him a supernatural reputation.

(3) Elvis is alive, baby!

This is the first music conspiracy or legend I was exposed to as a kid, bored and waiting in line at the supermarket and reading the headlines of tabloids. The trashy reports of celebrity affairs had no interest to me, but the sensational tales of Elvis faking his death and being spotted at a 7-11 and numerous other locations did. An American classic– long live the king!

(4) But Paul is dead (and other doppelganger replacements)!

“Paul is dead” is such a beautifully complex conspiracy. There’s so much, so I’ll just try to cruise through the main talking points: Paul McCartney, the theory says, dies in a car crash in 1966. Afraid to lose their fan base, The Beatles and management decided to do the logical thing and replace him with a Paul McCartney doppelganger. But their guilt gnawed at them, so they dropped a number of clues hidden in plain sight in their song lyrics and album cover art, the most heavily dissected being the front and back cover of 1969’s Abbey Road. There’s a run down of the eight pieces of hidden symbolism on the album covers here: https://www.biography.com/news/beatles-abbey-road-album-cover-anniversary

Since then, there have been several other doppelganger theories, including one that says that Miley Cyrus died of an overdose and was replaced by a body double in 2010, that Avril Lavigne was quietly replaced with a clone in 2003, and that Andrew W.K. is actually several people who are franchised out to play the role, maybe in the same way Andy Warhol would have an impersonator show up at art events.

I recommend listening to my friends on See You on the Other Side podcast. They have an episode titled “Avril is Dead: The Strange Case of Pop Culture Doppelgangers” where they discuss Paul, Avril, and Andrew as well as wrestler the Ultimate Warrior and more.

(5) Kurt Cobain was murdered. 

This was a conspiracy I watched play out as I was a Nirvana fan and a high schooler when Kurt Cobain killed himself. I found his death shocking and I experienced some sad disbelief. I think some conspiracies form because music is so important to us. When a musician dies before their time we can’t accept the grim reality. They were larger than life, larger than afterlife.

Over the years that followed Cobain’s death, a lot of “evidence” was hodge-podged together to suggest he was murdered, and most often the theories point at Courtney Love as the perpetrator. About six months after Cobain’s 1994 death, I went to see Hole play with Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails at the Riverside Theater. Some asshat was yelling “you killed Kurt!” at Love between songs. People needed to blame his death on someone and she was the convenient villain.

Shock rocker Eldon Hoke aka “El Duce” of The Mentors (and The Screamers), claimed he was hired by Love as the hitman (though he definitely shouldn’t be taken seriously). Two days after shooting an interview for the total crap conspiracy doc Kurt & Courtney, El Duce was found dead on the railroad tracks, decapitated, and with a high alcohol content. Of course this only led to more conspiracies.

(6) The 27 Club.

Kurt was then added to an elite theory of “The 27 Club,” a mystical group of musicians who died at that age, including Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and later Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Because of this there’s some mysticism about the number, a time when musicians are supposedly more vulnerable as they are on the cusp between still being considered young and about to turn a more “adult age.” But of course many great musicians have died at all ages.

(7) Who killed Tupac and Biggie…or are they still alive?

A lot of conspiracies linger because there aren’t satisfactory answers for closure, the JFK assassination being a prime example. Rap rivals Tupac Shakur and the Notorious BIG were murdered in 1996 and 1997, respectively, with both cases being unsolved and open. The list of alleged suspects who participated in the killings include Suge Knight, Puff Daddy, the LAPD, the FBI, and the Illuminati. Like Elvis, there are also legends that both rappers faked death, though most are typically about Tupac. You can find claims of people allegedly spotting Tupac in Cuba, Malaysia, and Somalia, among other places.

(8) Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando fled New York in a rental car road trip after 9/11. 

This is a good story, but has never been proven. The tall tale says that Michael Jackson was performing in New York the week of the 9/11 attacks (that is true) and that his guests there for the show included Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando (also true). After the 9/11 attacks, a panicked Jackson rented a car and the three celebrities begin a madcap road trip toward LA. They got as far as Ohio (stopping frequently at KFCs to fuel Brando with fried chicken), before ditching the car for a private jet to California. This story only emerged in 2011, conveniently after all three of the alleged participants had died. Is the story true? Probably not. A former assistant to Taylor says she stayed for several days in New York after the attack. Another source says Jackson and entourage bunked in New Jersey before charting a private plane to head West.

Zadie Smith wrote a great short fiction based on this urban legend for the New Yorker titled “Escape from New York.”

(9) In the Air Tonight

I’m including this one because this is a myth I believed myself for many years. I accepted the story I heard about Phil Collin’s famous hit “In the Air Tonight.” I thought the song was about, as Eminem described it “that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drowning/ but didn’t then Phil saw it all/ then at a show he found him” Turns out the song isn’t about a death by drowning or any of that, but just Phil expressing his feels about a divorce he was going through.

Yawwwwwn dude. Conspiracy is sometimes way more interesting than reality.

There are many more ones I’m missing– the one about Ace of Base being white supremacists and some interesting rumors about Marilyn Manson, so I got a feeling someday this column will get a sequel.

Links

If you’re in the midwest, tickets for Milwaukee Krampusnacht are on sale now. It’s an awesomely creepy and cool event. More info: www.milwaukeeparacon.com/krampus

My latest book is Apocalypse Any Day Now, available here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow

Twitter: @TeaKrulos Facebook: facebook.com/TheTeaKrulos 

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