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Tea’s Weird Week: A Brief History of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference

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By Tea Krulos, Milwaukee Paranormal Conference founder and director

As I was wrapping up my second book, Monster Hunters in 2015, I came up with a spark of an idea for promotion– why not host a mini-paranormal conference? I had met a good number of interesting researchers of all things unusual from the Midwest. I could invite the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee, the ghost investigation team I had shadowed to write several chapters of the book about. I could invite Linda S. Godfrey, the researcher that broke the Beast of Bray Road story, and Jim Sherman, the Bigfoot researcher from Michigan I had spent a weekend with trying to find the elusive Michigan Sasquatch.

It all started to come together really well. I found a venue, the absolutely beautiful, historic, and atmospheric Irish Cultural and Heritage Center. There was a strong interest in the event– there hadn’t been an attempt at such a conference in Milwaukee for about ten years. It was stressful as any event run on a shoestring and a dream is, but what a great time. I thought I really had something there, so I decided to expand, rapidly.

That’s me leading a panel discussion with Allison Jornlin, Jim Sherman, and Nick Roesler in 2015.

In 2016, I bit off more than I could chew. We moved to UWM and although I’m proud of the programming that year, it was an insane amount of work and I walked out of the event losing lots of money (well, a lot of money for a semi-employed, bohemian writer who is constantly rolling the dice with his bank account). Between that and other factors in my life, I fell into a deep depression. I thought that perhaps Year 2 was also the end of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference.

But then I remembered how much I loved working with all of these cool experts on weird subjects, the vendors, wonderful volunteers, supportive friends, awesome artists and musicians, everyone was just so enthusiastic about having this event. It’s a place where we could discuss all things paranormal– from parapsychology to debates on the Roswell crash to Lake Monster sightings to round-table discussion on the disappearance of D.B. Cooper. Dammit all, the show had to go on!

We returned to the Irish Cultural Center in 2017. It was ok– attendance was low. In order to organize and promote an event like this, it takes a lot of work and I’m often spread thin between the different aspects of my life. And as I was reminded recently when my dad showed me my 6th grade report card he found while cleaning, I’m not always good at asking for help, as 3 out 4 teachers agreed. It was good to see everyone again, though and keep it rolling. We also expanded to other events– we began hosting Friday the 13th Fests every Friday the 13th, a mix of horror themed music, fun stuff, and burlesque as well as Milwaukee Krampusnacht, held at Lakefront Brewery in 2017 before moving to the Bavarian Bierhaus.

The MPC banner flies again! 2019 @ Alverno College

The conference skipped a year in 2018 but returned in 2019 to Alverno College. I think 2019 was a good renewal year– there is certainly lots of potential with the Alverno space and we will be returning there with a big event in 2021 (if the pandemic ever ends).

This year we decided that rather than cancel entirely, we would feature some programming online. The great thing about this is that it’s free and available to anyone who wants to register. There is a solid line-up of speakers, panels, and activities, some from Wisconsin researchers as well as some from beyond.

You can buy this design as a t-shirt, tank top, sticker and other merch right here: https://www.teepublic.com/user/milwaukee-paranormal-conference

Friday: we are kicking things off by having a Ghost Story Happy Hour, I’m hosting Tea’s Weird Week Trivia (categories: Monsters of Folklore, Epic Ghost Hunters of History, and Wisconsin Cryptids) and a performance by Sunspot.

Saturday: Speakers and panels all day, headline speaker is John E.L. Tenney, and at 8pm tune into a live investigation of the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear by the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee.

I will be giving a talk and showing some slides at 11:15am (CST) Saturday on “Strange Places and Secret Societies,” talking about research I’ve done for my book American Madness.

Sunday: Starting things off with a meditation session with Goddess Aida, then virtual tours, a documentary screening and more.

I’m looking forward to it. A huge thanks to everyone participating, American Ghost Walks for sponsoring, and for everyone joining as attendees during this crazy time. I appreciate you all and hope to see you there virtually, and hopefully in person in 2021.

Again, you can register for free for the virtual conference and check out the full schedule here:
https://milwaukeeparacon2020.heysummit.com/

You can get my new book American Madness wherever books are sold, but I recommend my friends Lion’s Tooth: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/

My other books are available signed and personalized through the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Square store (in the “Tea’s Weird Week Gift Shop” section): https://milwaukeeparacon.com/online-store/

Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.

Tea’s Weird Week: A Strange Little Land

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One great thrill about organizing events like the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference and Milwaukee Krampusnacht is all the fantastic vendors I’ve met. I’ve always been proud of our vendor floors– very talented crafters of all sorts.

You can imagine how my eyes bugged out when I saw the work of Koko Van Boxtel, the proprietor of Strange Little Lands and her beautiful dioramas depicting “high strangeness” aka actual cases of the paranormal studies, like alien abductions, cattle mutilations, and cryptozoological cases like Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and Mothman. Other scenes depict folklore like Krampus and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow or macabre history like the witch trials.

Every single one is fun to look at. Like any skilled dioramist, in Koko’s work, the devil is in the details– things you might not see at first or third glance, but you’ll find them eventually.

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Encounter with the Flatwoods Monster, an entity that was reported in West Virginia in 1952.

These are beautiful, unique items and very fairly priced. Check out the Strange Little Lands Etsy page here: www.etsy.com/shop/StrangeLittleLands

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I know who that is– it’s the damn Bigfoot!

There’s a scene  that I’ve thought about and studied (via interviews and police reports) a lot in my upcoming book American Madness. I dropped Koko a line to see if she might be interested in being commissioned to create a diorama of it and was thrilled when she replied the she would.

Bohemian Grove, January 20, 2002. That’s when police got a call a “man with a gun” call from inside of the secret retreat, located in northern California in the redwood forest. When they arrived, they were surprised to find a man named Richard McCaslin, heavily armed and wearing an odd homemade costume, a superhero persona he had created called the Phantom Patriot. He had conducted this costumed raid because he had believed a conspiracy theory that the world’s most elite men were committing child sacrifices in front of a 40-foot statue of an owl inside.

You can read all about it in my book– it’s a pretty wild story that led to me researching other aspects of conspiracy culture and how it’s become so prevalent in our lives.

My friend Stephen Vincent Anderson came over and we did a video shoot in my back yard. I’m really lucky to know so many talented people. We cut together this promo video. I think it turned out great, it gives you a short peek into the story:

Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.

Now Koko’s diorama is on display in my office, along with other souvenirs from my various book projects over the years, a bizarre moment of history neatly documented in a Strange Little Land.

Here’s some details and behind-the-scenes photos of the diorama that Koko sent me.

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Koko with her beautiful Bohemian Grove diorama creation.

SEE ALSO: More on the Bohemian Grove: last week I wrote about the retreat and other secret societies having their summer plans cancelled: https://teakrulos.com/2020/07/16/teas-weird-week-summer-plans-are-canceled-for-the-new-world-order/

Congrats, friend! Dept.: Like I said, I’m lucky to have talented, creative friends– Hillarie Higgins has a blog titled Brain Wars! and has just published The Bank Doesn’t Care if Your House is Haunted: A Ghostly Storybook, a fun and spooky collection of writing and art. Check it out, you can get a copy here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/833639063/the-bank-doesnt-care-if-your-house-is?ref=shop_home_active_1&pro=1

My upcoming book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness, is a wild ride through the Bohemian Grove and conspiracy culture. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: Lion’s Tooth: CLICK HERE Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE Amazon:CLICK HERE

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

 

Tea’s Weird Week: Ask Tea Anything (Pandemic Edition)

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Tea’s Weird Week started as an outlet to write about whatever I wanted to once a week, engage readers, and promote stuff I’m working on– books, articles, events. In this year of crazy 2020, I’ve mostly been writing about “conspiracy theories in the news.” I have a book out in August titled American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness and quite a few people I wrote about have big in 2020: Alex Jones (most recently for leading an anti-quarantine protest in Austin), David Icke (“5G is Coronavirus”), Roger Stone (“Bill Gates is Coronavirus”), QAnon, and Anti-vaxxers have all been in the news this month.

There are new conspiracy stories in the news every day, but I thought I would take a break from analyzing them this week and answer my friend’s questions, solicited through social media. Here’s answers about anti-quarantine protests, doomsday bunkers, cryptozoology, and more.

Real talk. I know you’re all about the absurd and crazy shit. I just gotta know because I care about you- are you planning on going to one of these wingnut anti-stay-at-home/ pro-plague rallies to document? Because, if so, please be safe friend. This is obviously not an encouragement to go be a journalist at one of those. I’m just saying, if you do, be safe as fuck. Also please live long enough to get your own Netflix special because I know you’re capable of that.–Concerned

First, thanks for caring about me. Your message has reminded me that I should be spending some of my spare time messaging people to check in.

Here’s the thing– I really enjoy writing about things that I am enjoy and am genuinely interested in. I have become friends with a lot of people I write about. But sometimes I like getting out of my comfort zone and want to observe something I don’t understand up close. Some examples of this would be attending one of Bob Larson’s “exorcism seminars” for my book Monster Hunters, attending an anti-vaxxer rally and flat earth conference for my book American Madness and most recently, attending a Trump rally (in January, I wrote it up for the Shepherd Express.)

I’m going to sit this one out. I’m processing enough crazy stuff as it is. Watching a bunch of MAGA-hat wearin,’ Gadsen flag wavin’, 2A militia types, anti-vaxxers, etc. shouting about how they demand haircuts just ain’t doing it for me. As far as a Netflix special– as long as I don’t end up getting eaten by a tiger, I’m in!

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Joshua A. Bickel took this iconic photo, which is sure to be used in future texts about this era.

Any thoughts on those fallout type shelters/bunkers at the moment? Or if you know if people are using theirs in the face of pandemic? Just curious and interested in what qualifies those who own space in one to activate its use. –Aims

I think Aims is referring to the Survival Condos, which I toured with my friend Paul while working on a chapter (“Doomsday Bunkers of the Rich and Famous”) for my book Apocalypse Any Day Now. Built into an old Atlas missile silo in Kansas (with more being developed), the building featured several condo units (all sold) and recreation levels.

One thing we were told is that the condo owners had access whenever they wanted. There had recently been a football watching party, and owners would sometimes “vacation” there. As such, it’s possible that the owners could ride out the entire pandemic there if they wanted, and it certainly would be the ultimate quarantine.

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Tea at the Luxury Survival Condos in Kansas.

What’s one conspiracy that most others find false; but, you kinda believe in?— Mando

I’m skeptical about most conspiracies, but I think it’s worth noting that some stuff that seems like conspiracy later turns out to be true. I talk about a few of those in American Madness, the CIA’s Project MK-ultra (a mind control program) being one one quick example. The most believable conspiracy to me is that there has been some kind of UFO cover-up. I don’t mean necessarily extra-terrestrial, but some secret program. There’s just so many compelling UFO cases, I think something is going on. The truth is out there (winking emoticon).

What was really normal, too normal, about one of your subjects that you researched?–Addo

I really love those moments. In my book Heroes in the Night I shared a funny story about how me and Real Life Superhero The Watchman got lost and couldn’t find his car in a parking garage. It was humorously mundane. A lot of Real Life Superheroes were pretty normal outside of their secret lifestyle, as were a lot of paranormal investigators.

One of the major stories I tell in American Madness is that of conspiracist Richard McCaslin. He told me some of the most wild ideas I’ve ever heard– Reptilian aliens secretly controlling our world, Satanists eating babies, all sorts of crazy and terrible things.

Meeting him in person several times, I found I got along with him pretty well and he was friendly and could be oddly normal. I visited him at his house and I remember walking into his kitchen to find him drinking orange juice and laughing as he watched some baby jackrabbits chase each other around his yard in what seemed like a game of tag. It was the first time he said “you gotta see this!” and wasn’t referring to some Illuminati code he had cracked.

Do you have a favorite cryptid?— Matt …and have you ever had a personal experience with one or saw one?— Lynn

If you don’t know, cryptids are creatures studied in cryptozoology. I’ve not had a cryptid encounter myself, but while working on Monster Hunters, I did go on expeditions looking for Sasquatch, a Lake Monster (“Champ” of Lake Champlain), a Skunk Ape, went to the Mothman Festival, and took a ride down Bray Road looking for the Beast. It was all really fun and interesting, I love cryptozoology. I’m working on a writing project about Mothman. I love ’em all, but because of this project, I’m going to declare Mothman as my favorite cryptid, a close second would be Chupacabras.

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Me and Jim Sherman of Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization out in the woods of Michigan on the trail of the Sasquatch.

Would you want to have a really scary experience (alien abduction, possession, angry ghost) just to prove to yourself that it was real? What, if any, would be “too much”?— Judy

When faced with a tough question like this, I try to break it down. On the one hand, it would be pretty intensely transformative to have an experience like that, to witness a deep mystery of the universe. On the other hand, most people wouldn’t believe me anyway, and I know of several cases where people experienced stuff like this (or thought they did) and it damaged them forever. Final conclusion: I’d rather keep it a mystery. I enjoy not knowing.

Of all the people/things you interviewed or investigated was there any thing that you felt you were getting too deep into, or anything that you felt was getting too dangerous or did you fear for your life?— Gregory

The one things that stands out is the crazy night I spent on patrol with Real-Life Superhero Phoenix Jones while working on my book Heroes in the Night. He had pepper-sprayed a group of people that were fighting and they got angry and attacked us. I got punched in the face. At one point it looked like they were trying to get a gun. Then they tried to run us down with an SUV. “I hope this was worth it, cause now you’re going to get murdered,” was definitely a thought that crossed my mind as I was running from the angry, pepper-spray soaked mob. Other experiences– investigating Bobby Mackey’s, a notoriously haunted bar, and diving into some of the conspiracy stuff, has produced frightening moments, but nothing like that.

Thank you all for your questions! I’ll do another “ask me anything” to tie into the release of American Madness in late August or early September– pre-order info below!

Please Clap Dept.: I’ll leave you with some positive vibes– here’s an article I wrote for Milwaukee Magazine on a social distancing nightly dance party: “This Riverwest Neighborhood Dances Every Night at 8.”

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

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

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

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference

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Art by David Beyer, Jr.

Some of you have heard me yak on and on about my next book, Monster Hunters (Chicago Review Press, June 2015). The book is about the lives of people who search for unknown entities which we can categorize under the umbrella term “paranormal.”

I spent a lot of time joining people in the field as they searched for ghosts, demons, Bigfoot, Lake Monsters, UFOs, Skunk Apes (that’s the stinky cousin of Bigfoot) and other things that go bump in the night.

In order to celebrate the June release of the book, I wanted to do something that would be kind of a big deal. Something bigger than myself. And then I thought, why don’t I do something that Milwaukee is currently lacking? By that, of course, I mean a Paranormal Conference.

Here’s what I got so far:

*The conference does have a venue in downtown Milwaukee that is about 99% sure right now. It’s a good spot. I won’t announce it officially until paperwork is signed, though. We are pretty solid on the date which is Saturday, JUNE 6, 2015. It will be a one day, all day event, about Noon-7pm or so.

*The conference will feature a variety of guest speakers from the Midwest, mostly Wisconsinites as well as some guests (hopefully) from Illinois and Michigan. These speakers will give talks on subjects including ghost stories, paranormal investigation, cryptozoology, ufology, and folklore.
I’ve spoken to several (but not all) of the speakers I’d like to feature and have gotten a very positive response. I will soon be setting up a WordPress site for the con and we will begin to reveal guests there in the future.

What else will be going on? I’ll be reading an excerpt from Monster Hunters. There will also be a tabling room where guest speakers and other guests will have books, art, and ghost tour slots for sale. Possibly a documentary screening. We’ll also have a “get your picture taken with Bigfoot” booth. And much more. We’re working on ideas.

This message is just not an announcement. In starting to put this plan to paper, I quickly realized this is not something I would be able to pull off alone. A couple people have already been helpful behind the scenes. Here are some things we need help with:

*Financing. The venue I’m looking at is offering me a fair price for a Saturday in June, but it’s not dirt cheap. Anyone who has done an event knows that other costs will add up quick–printing flyers/posters/programs, printing t-shirts, there will be a lot of fees I haven’t even thought of yet. It will be a lot of money I will have to shell out up front, more than a semi-employed writer dude from Riverwest can afford.

Most conventions would recoup their costs by charging an admission, but see the crazy thing about me is I’m somewhat determined to have this event be Free. Yes, that’s right, admission to the con: free. Or maybe I should say: priceless. Soooooo, that means I need to think of other ways to raise money. One idea I’m keen on is sponsors. If I can find a few local sponsors that would invest in this and have their logo on display on the programming/ advertising, it would go a long way. I suppose a GoFundMe or a Kickstarter might work, too, but the idea of doing one of those makes me kind of googly eyed. What else? Fund raiser/ benefit show? I am open to any advice anyone has on this topic.

*Volunteers. I need ’em. I need a volunteer coordinator, volunteers to help set up and break down, help with the guests, hand out programs, find the Bigfoot, I need tech people to monitor the AV, I need a security person or two, help with the website, help making everything run smoothly. What’s in it for you? You’ll be helping launch an interesting event and we’re going to come up with some cool swag for you.

The next step here is we will get a WordPress site up and running for the con with official name and venue. This will go live on…Halloween (October 31, 2014).

If you’d like to contact me about any of the aforementioned, e-mail is best: teakrulos@gmail.com