Primus has released their first new track in 5 years. It’s titled “Conspiranoia,” and it has some connections to my book American Madness. My book is about Richard McCaslin, who styled himself as a conspiracy commando called the Phantom Patriot. Inspired by Alex Jones, McCaslin fashioned himself a superhero costume and heavily armed himself. He raided a place in the forests of North California called the Bohemian Grove in 2002. Conspiracy says that the world’s most rich and powerful men sacrifice people in a Satanic ritual in front of a giant statue of an owl within the Grove. Richard had a standoff with the police and was arrested.
Les Claypool, bassist and singer for Primus, has a ranch close to the Grove in Occidental, California. Richard’s arrest did not become a huge story, but it was picked up by a couple of California newspapers. Claypool, who read the news stories and was inspired to write a song titled “Phantom Patriot,” which appeared on his solo 2006 album Of Whales and Woe album.
I thought it would be pretty great if I could interview Claypool about this, so I doggedly emailed his talent agency until they agreed to set up a short phone interview with him. He was understandably nervous talking about Richard (“is this a stable individual, would you say?” was the first thing he said to me), as he didn’t want to face violent retaliation. Richard originally liked the “Phantom Patriot” song (he described it as a “modern day folksong”) but, like everything, it soon entered the web of the conspiracy when he saw symbolism in the accompanying video (which, Claypool explained to me, had nothing to do with him– it was just a piece of animation that paired nicely with the track). Richard took his own life in 2018.
When I saw the title of the new Primus song, I remembered a quote from Claypool, which appears on page 98 of American Madness, where Claypool describes the Bohemian Grove:
“…there’s all this mystery of what happens in the Grove with the Bohemian Club, it’s a collection of the elite as well as a bunch of artists,” Claypool explained. “Actually, my old music teacher was a trombonist for the Bohemian Club way back in the day. But there is this mystery, and a bit of conspiranoia as to what goes on there and some of it is fairly extreme.”
After American Madness came out, I did try to email Claypool’s talent agency a couple times to get a copy of the book to him, but got no reply. Les, if you’re reading this, I’d love to send you a book. But maybe he ended up reading it anyhow…
When I saw the link to the video, I set aside 11 minutes 38 seconds to give it a good look. I really love it, it’s a great prog rock that sails the seas of cheese of an epic subject– the ridiculous but sad Conspiracy World.
We meet Lloyd Boyd, conspiranoid who launches himself into the sky in a lawn chair to prove the earth is flat. Ridiculous, huh? Well, no, a Flat Earther named “Mad Mike” Hughes did die in 2020 after launching himself into the skies above Barstow with a rocket for the same goal. What about Marion Barrion, contrarian, who puts cat urine in her eyes, garlic cloves in her nose, and taping dryer sheets to her head to ward off COVID? Not far fetched at all, especially considering the President of the United States of America recommended injecting bleach. That’s the real problem– not the Lloyd Boyds and the Marion Barrions with their tin foil hats, but the people like Trump and Alex Jones who exploit and profit off of their mentalities.
The video goes into a beautiful tapestry of conspiracy classics– Bigfoot, black helicopters, chemtrails, and gay frogs. Many of these topics are discussed in American Madness. My eyes widened at the 4:21 mark, where we see a quick flash of the Great Owl of Bohemia statue in the Grove.
At the 6:23 there is great conspiracy mega-list– some real, some invented for comic effect, some– who knows? It’s hard to tell what are real beliefs and what are jokes these days. Different images flash on rows of TVs, and then at the 8:45 mark, there he is– the Phantom Patriot (same photo as above). Personally, I’m thrilled to see the Phantom Patriot acknowledged. Richard, however, would have dismissed this as some kind of government psy-op program to hide the truth, part of the mass web of conspiracy orchestrated against him. Here’s the video:
I’ll give Primus the last word on this one: “Be wary of conspiranoia/ as purveyors, abound/ for an open mind too open/ spills its contents on the ground.” I couldn’t agree more. That describes exactly what happened to Richard McCaslin.
American Madness is currently being developed into a documentary and this month director Eric Hayden is filming a recreation of the Phantom Patriot’s raid into the Bohemian Grove. I’ve seen pictures of the recreation of Richard’s costume and it is a spot on duplication, down to the last stitch. I’m very excited to see his final footage.
Here is my request, if you’re reading this. Buy a copy of American Madness: Lion’s Tooth//Bookshop.org//Amazon
And please rate/ review on Goodreads, Amazon, and/or share on social media. I appreciate the support.
SEE ALSO: I wrote about the Bohemian Grove shutting down their summer encampment for the first time in 142 years (because of COVID) here: Tea’s Weird Week: Summer Plans are Canceled for the New World Order | (teakrulos.com)
Please Clap Dept.: My article from the March Milwaukee Magazine, “Visibly Indigenous,” is now online. It was a great honor to write: How Milwaukee’s Native Community Is Working to Be Un-Erased (milwaukeemag.com)
Tea’s Weird Week, S4 ep10: The Big French Fry Perfume Beaver Fever Tiger Nuggets Corpse DJ Oregon Trail Charles Darwin Diary Mystery Finale: Me and Heidi talk weird news, trivia answers, closing track by The LOL, “Six Feet Under the Dance Floor.” Fun times!
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week S4 ep10: The Big French Fry Perfume Beaver Fever Tiger Nuggets Corpse DJ Oregon Trail Charles Darwin Diary Mystery Finale (podbean.com)
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Over the summer I was contacted by a filmmaker named Eric Hayden, who had heard me on a podcast (Rumor Flies) talking about my book, American Madness. He got a copy and read it and then messaged me, asking if I’d thought about adapting the book into a documentary. I told him I had always believed that the book would adapt well into that format.
There were a couple things that made me want to work with Eric (and his wife, Kim).
One was that he had read the book and understood it. That might seem like a low bar, but over the past ten years or so I’ve talked to plenty of reality show jokers and other people with film projects who want me in on something they’re developing who haven’t read my stuff. At best they are wasting my time (and their own). At worst, they are hoping that I hand over my research and/or contacts to a fringe group of people for little to nothing in return. Eric was offering to have me be involved each step of the way, something very much appreciated by me.
Second– Eric’s background is not in documentary filming but mostly video effects (though he does have directing and writing credits), however in looking at his impressive resume it was clear to me that he built his career by being hard-working, innovative, and talented. Some of the films he’s worked on include Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, Deadwood: The Movie (Eric’s team was nominated for a video effects Emmy for that one), and many more. Most recently, he’s been a video effects supervisor on The Orville.
So after some discussion, we agreed to start working on this documentary with myself, Kim and Eric producing, Eric directing, and me helping set up interviews. The first day of shooting was July 31 and was an extended interview with me here in Milwaukee. Since then, we’ve been working slowly but steadily to arrange interviews, dig up materials, and plan the direction of the documentary. We’re in contact almost every day– today, for example, me and Eric have been texting about how the tragic death on the set of a movie starring Alec Baldwin is ripe for a quickly developing conspiracy around it.
Earlier this month, we decided to spend a few days interviewing in Northern California and LA. It was a great, productive trip. Here’s some notes on what we did. If you don’t know what the Bohemian Grove or Richard McCaslin is, you should read my book American Madness.
I arrived in San Francisco on October 7 and spent the next day, Friday, relaxing. I met my friend Elizabeth for lunch, she had moved from Milwaukee to San Francisco many years ago. Saturday, Oct. 9 was the longest day of shooting interviews. We started out by talking to “Anonymous Grove Valet,” someone who had worked in one of the Bohemian Grove camps for over ten summers as a “valet,” an all purpose job of cooking, pouring drinks, cleaning, helping with luggage, etc. We wanted to find out what this person did or did not see in the Grove and what the clientele was like.
From there we headed to Superhero Desserts (1449 Webster St.) in Alameda, a bakery operated by Real-life Superhero members of the California Initiative. I first met Rock N Roll and Night Bug ten years ago at an RLSH event called HOPE in 2011. Def some of the favorite people I’ve met in that movement, I’ve several times cited them as doing the RLSH the “right” way. And so cool that they’ve opened their bakery business, a portion of proceeds going to their food/supply handouts to the unhoused. Rock and Bug also met Richard McCaslin in passing a couple times. It was great to see them and my only regret, as always, was not having more time.
From Superhero Desserts, we ventured further north to visit Mary Moore. Mary is a longtime activist and one of the founders of the Bohemian Grove Action Network. For decades, she helped organize a group of activists who gathered outside the gates of the Bohemian Grove every summer to protest. BGAN was also key in sneaking undercover reporters into the Grove and extracting documents and pictures out (by Grove employees). I interviewed her by phone for American Madness, but slowly cruising up a windy, narrow mountain road to visit her cottages in the Redwood forest was quite an experience. Now in her 80s, Mary showed us around her incredible collection of research and I’m so glad we got to visit and get an interview with her. Mary lives just a few miles down the road from the Grove, so we of course had to visit. We didn’t attempt to trespass, but shot some footage in the area.
The next day, on Sunday, we interviewed Don Eichelberger, another BGAN founder, in front of the Bohemian Club in downtown San Francisco, then began the long drive down to the Los Angeles area. Once there, the Haydens were incredibly hospitable towards me, letting me stay in their guest room. We shot an interview with Dave Baker and Andrew Price, comic book writers and hosts of the Deep Cuts podcast, who were able to give insight on comic book aesthetics and conspiracy problems (they are currently unrolling a massive Deep Cuts series on QAnon, listen here: deepcutspod.com). We had another meeting, then I flew home.
There’s still much to do on the documentary, including work on reenactments and interviews in other cities. For now, we’re catching up on the many hours of interviews that were already filmed. I’ll update periodically as production moves forward. And next week I’ll talk about ANOTHER (but smaller scoped) documentary short project I’m working on about local horror hosts. Fun stuff!
Tea’s Weird Week, S3 ep 05: Denver Airport Conspiracy: On my way home from California, I transferred at Denver International, a notorious hub of conspiracy. I spoke to my Denver friend Jenny Sanchez (Long Days Travel) about how these conspiracies spun. Me and my co-host Heidi Erickson discussed weird news about the Not Deer, an unemployed wizard, the country’s fattest pumpkin, the Zodiac Killer, and more. Plus trivia with Miss Information, and we close out with a track by Jon Henry, “Chicken Little.”
Listen here: Tea‘s Weird Week S3 ep05: Denver Airport Conspiracy (podbean.com)
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Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
Mid-July always reminds me of a certain mystery ritual involving a giant owl statue and the burning of a pesky entity named Dull Care. Every second weekend of July, the Bohemian Club kicks off their Midsummer encampment in the Bohemian Grove retreat. The Bohemian Club was founded in San Francisco 1872. The original intent of the club was to foster art and culture in San Francisco, with most of the original members being writers, performers, and artists. It quickly grew into a status symbol, and the club began admitting men (it is a men only club) of means. Over it’s history, the Club has included several U.S. presidents and countless politicians, celebrities, CEOs, top brass military, musicians, and other movers and shakers.
Six years after the club was founded, one of the founding members, actor Henry Edwards, announced he was moving to New York. The club– about a hundred members at the the time, decided to have a going away camp out party for Edwards. An account of that first Midsummer Encampment, written by playwright Porter Garnett in 1908 says:
“The camp was without many comforts, but the campers were well supplied with the traditional Bohemian spirit– the factors of which are intellect, taste, conviviality, self-indulgence, and the joys of life. They were also provided with blankets to keep them warm and a generous supply of liquor for the same reason.”
The “Bohemians” enjoyed this outing so much that they made it an annual tradition. It is, what President (and Bohemian Club member) Herbert Hoover called “the greatest men’s party on earth.” The Club bought up a 2,700 acre plot in the redwood forest outside of Monte Rio, California and built cabins and other facilities. During the July summer encampment, which kicks off the second weekend of July, members enjoy theatrical performances, music, the great outdoors, and a lot of boozing and schmoozing. Oh yeah– they also kick the vacation off with a bizarre effigy burning ceremony in front of a giant statue of an owl.
In the 1880s, the Grove began what is called the Cremation of Care ceremony. It’s a piece of pageantry in which some of the club members dress as druids, recite poetic odes to the forest, then bring forward an effigy named “Dull Care” in front of the Great Owl of Bohemia statue. Dull Care is supposed to represent their worldly concerns that might get in the way of them being in party-mode. Dull Care mocks the Bohemians, but then the owl statue lights up and speaks! He instructs the priests to use a flame from a lamp at the base of the statue to destroy Dull Care. The Bohemians burn Dull Care, lots of cheering, fireworks, and drinks follow.
The reason we know about this secretive ritual (no press is allowed in) is from a series of undercover journalists who have infiltrated over the years from the 1970s to the 2000s.
In 2000, conspiracy peddler Alex Jones (of InfoWars) snuck into the Grove and recorded the Cremation of Care ceremony with a hidden camera. He cut this footage into a sensationalized “documentary” titled Dark Secrets: Inside the Bohemian Grove. In it he suggests that the ceremony is a satanic rite, the owl statue is Moloch, and the effigy might actually be a real person, who knows, maybe a child! And there’s your keystone of many conspiracies, from old anti-Semitic “blood libel” myths that said Jewish people used the blood of Christian children for rituals to modern QAnon nonsense about a Deep State cabal of pedophiles that get high off of adrenochrome they harvest from kids.
This Jones documentary influenced a person named Richard McCaslin to adopt a costumed persona, the Phantom Patriot, with a mission to raid the Bohemian Grove, “save the children,” and destroy the Great Owl statue. He was heavily armed when he snuck into the Grove the night of January 19, 2002. Here are pictures he took shortly before that date:
Things did not go as planned for the Phantom Patriot. You can read more on the history of the Bohemian Club (including what Oscar Wilde and Richard Nixon think of it), the strange, random life of Richard McCaslin, and the journey of the Phantom Patriot into the Bohemian Grove (in a chapter titled “Burn the Owl”) and what followed in my book American Madness.
For the Tea’s Weird Week podcast this week. I decided to have a Midsummer Encampment of my own and did a table read of sorts of the entire Cremation of Care ceremony with the help of some podcast host friends I made while promoting American Madness. I played the role of Priest One, while Aaron Franz (The Age of Transitions podcast, author of Revolve) voiced Priest Two. Dave Baker (Deep Cuts podcast, author of the new Everyone is Tulip graphic novel) acted (and sang!) the roles of Priest Three/ Great Owl of Bohemia, and Joseph L. Flatley (Failed State Update podcast, author of New Age Grifter, out next month from Feral House, publisher of American Madness) got the role of the sinister Dull Care.
We didn’t have the druid robes or the giant owl statue, but I think we brought that secret society swagger to the reading. Thanks guys! And begone, Dull Care! The episode also features a clip from an interview I did with Richard McCaslin from 2015 (not heard by anyone but me before) as well as the weird news segment with me and Heidi, a new trivia question from Miss Information and closes with a new track from snag., “Paradigm Shift.”
Listen to Tea’s Weird Week, S2 Ep09, Burn the Owl (Revisited) here: Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep09: Burn the Owl (Revisited) (podbean.com)
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SEE ALSO: Last summer I wrote a Tea’s Weird Week column (that appeared in a slightly different form as an article in Fortean Times) about how the Bohemian Grove summer encampment was called off for the first time in 142 years, as well as meet-ups for the Bilderberg Group and (probably) Skull & Bones: “Summer Plans are Cancelled for the New World Order.”
Get the full story of the Bohemian Grove and Richard McCaslin in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness here: Lion’s Tooth/ Bookshop.org/ Amazon
There’s many things I like about the Tea’s Weird Week podcast, but one reason it is dear to me is that it’s been a part of my social time, a chance to talk to cool, interesting people, some I’ve known a long time, others I’ve just met. After wanting to do a podcast for years, the pandemic downtime finally caught up to me and like a million billion other people, I got that podcast rolling. TWW has a great crew– my co-host Heidi Erickson, sound engineer Android138, and trivia host Miss Information. We did a 13 episode inaugural season that ran January through April. Like a lot of things I do, it was a case of building an airplane while flying it, but I think it turned out well.
In season one, we had some really fun original music by Android138 and other music guests, an interesting array of interviews with people like writer and UFO podcaster Ryan Sprague, the yodeling dominatrix Manuela Horn, Lake Monster expert Scott Mardis, and Patch O’Furr, a furry investigative journalist, just to name a few. We also did things like an episode based on audio from my 2017 tour of the Luxury Survival Condos.
I love having a weekly discussion with Heidi for the Tea’s Weird Week News segment about topical stories and classic strange cases; a couple people won big answering Miss Information’s trivia, and we closed out each episode with a track by an awesome indie band. I guess the podcast follows a sort of weirdo late night show format– opening monologue/interview, weird news talk, bonus skit stuff (like some of the music bits and the “Comedy Roast of Zorth“), trivia question, song. We try to have fun and inform you about the very weird world around us.
You can listen to the entire season on your preferred platform choice– find the episode list and links to all platforms here: Tea’s Weird Week Podcast | (teakrulos.com)
We’re working on a new 13 episode season 2 (summer season) right now and we’ve got a lot of great stuff going. I’m going to tell you about the first 3 episodes we got in production and some of the ideas we have beyond that.
(S2, EP01.) Hodag vs. Snallygaster. We love local lore at Tea’s Weird Week. Many small towns across the country have some story about a monster that lurks in the woods, stalks a creepy country lane, or swims in the local pond. We talk with the proprietors of the Hodag Store in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and the American Snallygaster Museum in Frederick County, Maryland about their homespun monsters. (airs 5/21)
(S2, EP02.) The Marvelous Miss Fit. I met Miss Fit– bodybuilder, charity fundraiser, and Real-life Superhero star of The Adventures of Miss Fit while working on my book Heroes in the Night. A stereotype of Real-life Superheroes is that they are dorky, delusional Batman-wannabe white dudes. Miss Fit bench-presses that idea, then body-slams it, then puts it in a headlock. She’s just rad, is what I’m saying. (airs 5/28)
(S2, EP03.) Lost in the Schroeder’s Books Vortex. Imagine a bookstore that looks like something out of an episode of Hoarders, run by a mysterious and eccentric woman, a hodgepodge tsunami of books ranging from the worthless to the priceless. Well, you’ll have to imagine because the West Allis, Wisconsin Fire Department shut Schroeder’s Books and Music down years ago, but we get one last look as the store is being cleared out and remember the sights and smells of the store, plus a dramatic reading of some of the store’s Yelp reviews. (airs 6/4)
After that I’m not sure what order these might appear, but we have episode ideas in the works that include interviewing Nick Redfern about his new book, a visit to our friends at Dead by Dawn Dead & Breakfast in Manitowoc, a Bohemian Grove episode, and much more, plus some great music and intriguing trivia.
After that, we’ll take a short summer vacation and then season 3 will really be all out because it will be our fall season– lots going on. As I wrote in a 2019 Tea’s Weird Week column, “October is Mad Boo-Business.” We’ll be recording live from some events, doing our own live events, some ghost investigating.
You can see me and Heidi do the news segment live in the Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group (and hopefully I’ve figured out how to hook Streamyard to YouTube), we’re going live this Friday, May 14, 5pm CST for S2, ep01.
Check out my books:
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.
Cambria, Wisconsin, population 767, has “no bank, no grocery store and no stoplight,” as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. For big city livin’ like that, you have to drive 25 minutes to Beaver Dam. Being Wisconsin, it does of course have a bar, which is called The Dump.
It’s out here on a property surrounded by cornfields that five domestic terrorists, militia members who called themselves the Wolverine Watchmen, met on July 10-12 to engage in “firearms training and other combat drills,” according to an affidavit by the FBI. They also attempted to built IEDs out of “black powder, balloons, a fuse, and BBs for shrapnel,” but they failed to detonate.
They property owner is a man named Michael H. Jung. His Twitter bio reads:
Belong to both Oath Keepers and III%ers. We are here to honor our countries [sic] Constitution and keep it the law of Our Country. What about you? MAGA Trump Patriot.
Both the groups Jung lists are militias. The Three Percenters get their name from the supposed fact that only 3% of America’s population fought against the British in the Revolutionary War. The Oath Keepers are named after the oath order to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Both groups view themselves as Revolutionaries fighting against a tyrannical government. They fly the “don’t tread on me” Gadsen flag, and the 13-star flag Betsy Ross flag.
The training session in Cambria was for a failed attempt to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who according to one of the Wolverine Watchmen, was a “tyrant bitch.” A couple of the members were identified in pictures from the massive pandemic protests at the Michigan Capitol building in April and May. Hundreds of armed people were there to protest COVID lockdown measures, which they said violated their freedom.
The FBI affidavit reveals that the Wolverine Watchmen had been forming a plan for months to kidnap Governor Whitmer and take her to “a secure location in Wisconsin for ‘trial.'” The location wasn’t identified, but perhaps it was to be Jung’s property in Cambria.
One of the militia’s ideas called for rallying “200 men” to storm the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing to take hostages, including the Governor. In another plan, they plotted to kidnap her from her vacation home and spent time staking it out twice in the last couple months. They planned to blow up a bridge to distract law enforcement and bomb police cars with Molotov cocktails. 13 men involved with the plot were arrested on federal and state charges.
The Wolverine Watchmen were all Trump fans and perceived him to be a fan of them– after all, as the lockdown protests were taking place Trump tweeted out “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” The assembled militias saw that as validation. Trump also often showed his disdain for Governor Whitmer, sometimes refusing to say her name and referring to her as “that woman from Michigan.” Trump tweeted out that in regards to the militias, the Governor should “talk to them, make a deal,” nevermind the fact that some of these protesters were calling for her to be lynched and beheaded.
Here’s another thing about the Wolverine Watchmen: they were conspiracy theorists. Reviewing the Twitter feed of Michael Jung, the property owner in Cambria, we find the full gamut of 2020 conspiracies between February and his last tweet in August 25– lots of posts sharing anti-vaxxer media, a few posts celebrating QAnon (including a video titled “We are Q. The Plan to Save the World.”) as well as posts about 5G (a “direct energy weapon system”), voter fraud, FEMA camps, the fake “plandemic,” and references to Democratic governors being “tyrants.”
Other Wolverine Watchmen posted conspiracy media as well. Eric Molitor posted conspiracy theories related to QAnon, Peter Musico, ranted on YouTube about the “Deep State,” and shared links to Owen Shroyer, an InfoWars host, while Joseph Morrison shared anti-vaxxer theories and also encouraged his Twitter followers to tune into InfoWars, run by conspiracy peddler extremist Alex Jones. And that’s just what we know so far.
Jones and InfoWars often pop up in conspiracy driven plots– in my book American Madness, I detail how the influence of Alex Jones led a man named Richard McCaslin to heavily arm himself and raid a private retreat of powerful men called the Bohemian Grove back in 2002. He believed he would find satanic sacrifices taking place there. McCaslin viewed himself much like the Wolverine Watchmen probably do, not as domestic terrorists, but as patriots (McCaslin even dubbed himself the “Phantom Patriot”), fighting in a Revolutionary War.
The story repeated again in 2016 when a man named Edgar Maddison Welch saw a video on InfoWars about the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which led to his raid on the Washington DC pizzeria Comet Ping Pong. A wave of violence inspired by QAnon beliefs has risen under the Trump administration.
Alex Jones, by the way, denounced McCaslin’s Bohemian Grove raid after it happened, saying that it sounded “crazy,” even though he was the inspiration. That’s a pattern of denial and disassociation he’s followed ever since, and sorry, Wolverine Watchmen, that includes you. On a recent show, Jones said the whole scheme was a “false flag” by the “Deep State.” In his words:
Well, we knew it was coming. I predicted over and over again, the last few months, it’s not a hard prediction, that they’d engage in a provocateur setup or a false flag against Democrat Party officials, to make them look like victims when they launch incredible tyranny.
Trump, the Conspiracy Theorist-in-Chief, is culpable in this. His presidency has normalized conspiracy belief about the pandemic, alleged voter fraud, and civil unrest. He knows the value of misinformation and fear-mongering– that’s his true Art of the Deal.
This has not been the first incident of armed conspiracy theorists on the march recently– last month I wrote a column where I reported on two armed men heading to Kenosha (to potentially shoot protesters) that were arrested at a hotel. They were part of the 417 Second Amendment Militia. An examination of one of their Facebook pages again turned up lots of posts about the “COVID hoax,” voter fraud, and conspiracies about Trump’s favorite enemies. A disturbing report from Minneapolis, meanwhile, has shown that a private security firm is hiring mercenaries to “make sure the Antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites,” though there’s no evidence such a plan exists.
Taking to Twitter to comment on the plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer, Trump once again chose not to condemn right wing extremists, but called out “Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs.”
The real threat to safety of people’s lives, as these cases show, are white supremacists and conspiracy-inspired militia groups like the Wolverine Watchmen. And no matter the results in November, expect to see more plots like this one. If Trump loses, they will consider themselves at war. If he wins, they will be emboldened.
Tea Krulos is the author of American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness.
“Read the FBI affidavit in the militia plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer,” Detroit Free Press
“Residents shocked band of men trained in Cambria for governor kidnapping plot,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“The ‘Wolverine Watchmen’ Accused of Targeting Michigan Guv Spooked Their Neighbors,” Daily Beast
Michael H. Jung Twitter page: https://twitter.com/climer6699 [accessed Oct. 10, 2020]
“Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: Alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Whitmer a ‘false flag’ by the ‘deep state,'” Media Matters for America
What a week! American Madness official release date was Tuesday and it’s been so great to see the book featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as well as an excerpt on Literary Hub. Most exciting of all is seeing people posting pictures of their copies of the book and telling me that they’re starting to read it.
For my column this week I decided to solicit my social media for conspiracy questions. Here’s a few of them. I’ll be doing another “ask me anything” column in a couple months, titled “American Madness–spoilers edition” after people get a chance to read the whole story.
First up, not a question, but a comment I got on Twitter that I want to talk about:
Tea this book foreshadows what we are living in right now and especially applicable to another Phantom Patriot in 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed protesters in Kenosha. –Sleepersound
Yes, Tuesday was an absolutely horrifying night in Kenosha (about 40 miles to the south of where I live, Milwaukee) after a militia member killed two people and severely injured a third. Kyle Rittenhouse, spotted in the front row of a Trump rally in January, thought he was fighting for justice and the American way, much like the main subject of my book, Richard McCaslin (aka the Phantom Patriot) did. McCaslin heavily armed himself and raided a place called the Bohemian Grove in 2002 (but didn’t kill anyone).
Also of note– the leader of the Kenosha Guard (a sort of ad hoc militia that organized an event page encouraging armed citizens to show up in Kenosha) sent the police chief a letter proudly noting that the group had been reported on by InfoWars, Alex Jones’ media site. Jones was an inspiration to McCaslin and several others who have committed violent acts over the years.
Have you ever heard a true ends to the means on the flat earth theory? I’m not a believer in many conspiracy theories–but I can understand why someone would when presented the outcome.–Addo
That’s something I was curious to find out when I attended a flat earth conference last November, which I write about in a chapter of American Madness titled “The War Against Science.” If it had been discovered that the world was flat, why cover it up? Science is always evolving with new data, readjusting when they find a theory to be wrong, so what is the gain in the alleged lie?
Flat Earthers say it’s all because of greed from NASA. They started out wanting to explore space in earnest, but when they discovered the truth, they needed to maintain the lie to get paid. They couldn’t get their massive annual budget ($22.6 billion) for space exploration if there is no space beyond the dome covering the earth. So there you go, follow the money…follow it to the end of the earth.
Any thoughts on the whole “hitler got to Argentina” thing? (Yes, I use a lower-case spelling of his name intentionally)— Shane
Shane, I’ve read about a few Nazi conspiracies– the escape to Argentina in a U-boat, the alleged hidden base in Antarctica, the UFO program. I really like reading classic conspiracy stuff like this and the JFK assassination (even if I don’t believe it). In this case, I think it’s well proven that Hitler died in Germany. One piece of solid evidence was an analysis matching his teeth to those found in the remains in his bunker: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/05/21/hitler-teeth-test-dispels-myths-nazi-leaders-survival/627831002/
What are the main tenants of the Q “movement?”— Samwell
QAnon beliefs are always morphing and spinning new ideas, but the core belief is that an evil cabal of Democrats, Hollywood, the mainstream media, and other liberal villains are secretly running a satanic child sex trafficking ring, engaging in cannibalism, and harvesting adrenochrome from victims to get high on. The believe a secret informant calling themselves “Q” is leaking information on Trump’s secret plan to bring this cabal down, a period of reckoning called “The Storm” which will lead to a “Great Awakening” of the truth. It’s very cult-like in it’s cognitive dissonance.
Other terms to be wary of– the QAnon motto “where we go one, we go all” (wwg1wga) and #SavetheChildren, a hashtag they’ve sadly hijacked, infiltrating the actual problem of sex trafficking with Q nonsense.
Are more groups like QAnon who have been found making up things going to become more commonplace? What do you think would happen to their followers if they were shown who was behind it? –Discordia
Discordia, I’m afraid both parts of this answer are painful. First, yes, I do think QAnon and other groups will continue to grow, especially in this time of madness. A QAnon believer, Marjorie Greene, is most likely going to be elected to Congress and there are a couple other candidates who have a shot. Trump himself said he liked QAnon because “I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.” When that type of legitimacy is given to a group like this, it emboldens them and makes it easier to recruit new members. I think it’ll be easy for similar groups to gain traction.
To the second question, I think that “Q” is most likely a troll or combination of trolls, but sadly even if there was solid evidence of this you could present to Q followers, they will dismiss it. You might lose a few believers, but the core group will say anything you try to present to them is a “deepfake,” “fake news,” or a “hoax.”
It’s frustrating– as I discuss in American Madness, once you go down that rabbit hole, it’s really hard to come back from it.
For more ways you can support me and my book, please see this entry: “American Madness is Out Now!“
Purchase from Lion’s Tooth for a signed, inscribed copy, a bonus comic zine, Lion’s Tooth swag, a “this machine kills fascists” sharpie from Feral House, and access to in-person and online events with me! Right here: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.
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.
These are beautiful, unique items and very fairly priced. Check out the Strange Little Lands Etsy page here: www.etsy.com/shop/StrangeLittleLands
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.
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
It’s on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52486773-american-madness
“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