On Tuesday, I stood in line and shuffled into the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena to witness a Trump rally. I like to have experiences outside of my comfort zone to try to figure out what this weird world is all about. This one was pretty intense– imagine a stadium of ten thousand people screaming, totally high on hatred. I wrote about just a few WTF moments at the rally for the Shepherd Express in an article titled “The Top Ten Wildest Lines from Last Night’s Trump Rally in Milwaukee.”
I had another reason for attending– this year I’m closely monitoring Trump’s promotion of conspiracy theories and have been working on a new feature of my writing here. I’ll end some “Tea’s Weird Week” columns with a tally called the #TrumpConspiracyCounter.
It’s a fact, of course, that Donald J. Trump is a conspiracy theorist, sometimes legitimately, sometimes opportunistically. This is one of the reasons I believe that my upcoming book American Madness is very timely.
To give you a quick rundown of Trump’s greatest conspiracy hits so far: he was the person with the biggest platform to promote Birtherism, the racist conspiracy that suggested Obama was born in Africa and forged his Hawaiian birth certificate; that there was massive voter fraud in California that led to Hillary winning the popular vote; he kicked off his presidency by saying a media conspiracy had underreported his inauguration size; climate change is a “Chinese hoax”; the sound of wind turbines “causes cancer”; Ted Cruz’s father was part of the conspiracy to kill JFK; vaccines cause autism; 79-year-old Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was possibly murdered; there is a liberal “War on Christmas” (and last year mentioned a sequel “War on Thanksgiving”); he’s also given many endorsements of personnel from InfoWars and other conspiracy theorists.
And that’s just off the top of my head. Why is this dangerous? Trump is in the highest position of authority, he has 72 million Twitter followers and a cult-like population that accepts his every word as fact.
Every time Trump speaks or tweets something that is a conspiracy or shares from a known conspiracy theorists this year, it’ll be added to the #TrumpConspiracyCounter. I can only take so much Trump talk, so if you notice his promotion of conspiracy, please do help me out by commenting on the blog here or e-mailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be clear, this is only tracking claims or associations that have an element of conspiracy to them. To see a tracking of straight-up lies and deceptions, you can look at CNN’s collection of 15, 413 (and counting) gumballs.
Here’s where we are 16 days into the year.
1.) On January 2, Trump tweeted: “Their partisan Witch Hunt is hurting our Country do [sic] badly, & only bringing more division than ever!” It’s a term he tweeted out 11 times in December 2019 alone. In a rambling letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on December 17, 2019, regarding the vote on impeachment, Trump says he is being treated unfairly and that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.”
At least 25 people were hung, pressed to death, or died in jail as a result of the Salem witch trials. Trump mentioned “witch trials” in tweets January 6, 12, and 13, to the press on January 7, and at rallies Jan 9 and 14.
I think this is a good place to start with the #TrumpConspiracyCounter. Note that Trump’s daily language is steeped in terms like “fake news,” a supposed media conspiracy perpetrated against him by CNN, NBC, the “Failing New York Times,” and the Washington Post, all of whom he refers to as “the enemy of the people.” Investigations into him are a “witch hunt” and equivalent to a “lynching.” All of this normalizes conspiracy ideas and the language surrounding it.
I was originally going to catalog ever time Trump says “witch hunt” on the counter, but his volume of using that and related terms ( “hoax,” “scam,” etc.) is too much. We’ll count this as number one and then move on.
2.) January 3: Trump retweets Alt-Right troll and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, a correspondent of One America News Network. Posobiec has been a frequent InfoWars guest and promoter of Pizzagate, among other theories. The retweet was just a commendation of Trump’s killing General Soleimani, but the act of retweeting Posobiec is enough to get on the #TrumpConspiracyCounter.
3.) January 14: Back to the Milwaukee rally. I was wondering if he might leave some conspiracy gem, and sure enough, he brought back his old claim that Obama is guilty of “wiretapping” Trump Tower or in some other way spying on him, sometimes suggesting the FBI was part of “Spygate” as the conspiracy is known (there is no evidence of the theory). Here’s something I wrote for the Shepherd Express article but cut because of length:
“Barack Hussein Obama,” Trump told the booing crowd, “which [sic] administration loves spying on people’s campaigns. By the way, by the way, could you imagine if it was the other way and I spied on his campaign? What would these fake news people be doing?” Trump said, gesturing to the media in the back of the room.
With my book American Madness out this year, it’ll be interesting to see how many clicks the counter racks up by the book release date (Aug.25 2020). We’re at 3 now. What do you guess the number will be?
Pre-order my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (August 2020, Feral House)
Read all my columns from last year collected in Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review ($1.99/ free on Kindle Unlimited)
“Journalist Tea Krulos has made a curious and enlightening career out of examining groups of people with odd beliefs.” — Skeptical Inquirer
Conspiracy theory doesn’t take a holiday. I learned that while on Christmas break. I spent a couple days in pajamas, watching TV, reading, and surfing the net. It was good– I needed a few days off, especially from all this conspiracy stuff. Time to reset. But then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a headline titled “Is Kevin Spacey straight-up murdering his accusers?”
Whuuuuut? I grabbed some chocolate-peppermint cookies and settled in, eager to learn more.
I’ve enjoyed Kevin Spacey’s career, especially films like The Usual Suspects, Seven, Leaving Las Vegas, American Beauty, and 21. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed his portrayal of ruthless politician Frank Underwood on House of Cards, though I think I fell off somewhere around season 4. Bravo! Here’s two Oscars, a Tony, and a Golden Globe, Kevin Spacey.
Then 2017 happened. Let me lead you through what went down next so you can see this conspiracy theory unfold.
October 2017: Actor Anthony Rapp, followed by over 15 other men (and then 30 plus people), accuse Spacey of sexual harassment and assault. Spacey’s career begins to implode from the allegations– Netflix removes him from House of Cards and shelves his film Gore. His role in All the Money in the World is reshot with Christopher Plummer.
Christmas Eve 2018: A little over a year later, Spacey records a holiday video message titled “Let Me Be Frank,” which he delivers as Frank Underwood, his House of Cards character. If you haven’t seen the show, by the way, Underwood is a politician who sabotages and even murders people who stand in his way. He pushes a journalist in front of a subway train and also kills an inebriated politician and makes it look like a suicide. And that’s just what I remember from the first few seasons.
In this video, Spacey (as Underwood), is wearing a Santa Claus print apron, casually sips hot cocoa and says lines like:
“We’re not done, no matter what anyone says.” and “You wouldn’t rush to judgment without facts, would you? Did you?”
February 2019: Linda Culkin dies. She was charged with sending Spacey and his associates bomb and anthrax threats in 2009 and 2011 and was sentenced to prison and probation time in 2014. Culkin died Feb. 25, 2019, after she was hit by a car. The driver was not charged as she was walking against a red light. Culkin was a nursing assistant and says her actions were inspired after a patient told her that they were “attacked” by Spacey.
October 2019: An anonymous Spacey accuser who was a massage therapist dies of cancer. The accuser filed suit against Spacey in September 2018, alleging the actor had tried to kiss him and forced him to grab his genitals in 2016. The lawsuit against Spacey was dropped because of the accuser’s death.
Christmas Eve 2019: Like a calendar inspired serial killer, Spacey returned one year later with another cryptic holiday video message. This time he was in front of a fireplace, wearing a Christmas-ey sweater, again in character as Frank Underwood. Titled “KTWK” (“kill them with kindness”) the video starts with Kevin Spacey stoking the fire. But as he turns around, we soon realize this is Frank Underwood. “You didn’t really think I was going to miss an opportunity to wish you Merry Christmas, did you?” He says in Underwood’s southern twang. [Cut to me chewing a cookie and nervously looking around my living room.]
And he went on to deliver this holiday cheer…
“As we walk into 2020, I want to cast my vote for more good in this world. Ah yes, I know what you’re thinking (stokes fire)… can he be serious? I’m dead serious. And it’s not that hard, trust me. The next time someone does something you don’t like, you can go on the attack. But you can also hold your fire and do the unexpected. You can (dramatic pause) kill them with kindness.“
Christmas Day 2019: The next day Ari Behn, a Norwegian author who says that Spacey once grabbed him “by the balls” while at an event together, dies by suicide.
I enjoy hearing about weird stuff and conspiracy, but I’m also a skeptic. Being skeptical of what you see and hear via the Internet is possibly more important now than it ever has been. We are in desperate need of media literacy education.
The hyped “three Spacey accusers died this year” is a good story without any context. But on closer look, it doesn’t make sense. The Culkin case was resolved in 2015, ending in jail time for her. The anonymous accuser died of cancer, are we supposed to believe that Spacey somehow caused cancer or covered up the cause of death? Behn briefly mentioned his “#MeToo moment” in a radio interview, not in court.
Why would 2 out of 3 Spacey targets be people who don’t have any litigation towards him? Why would he murder them instead of the 30-some people who are suing him?
That being said, Spacey is being pretty creepy with his weird holiday videos, which he’s making to– I don’t know– intimidate people? Distract attention from his cases with strange behavior? Is he just being angry weird? Maybe he’s having a breakdown and morphing into Frank Underwood? I’m sure we’ll get another clue next Christmas (if he isn’t in prison).
The video is below–watch at your own risk. Oh, and by the way, thanks for reading the first “Tea’s Weird Week” of 2020! I’m dead serious.
If you like conspiracy, pre-order my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (August 2020, Feral House)
Read all my columns from last year collected in Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review ($1.99/ free on Kindle Unlimited)
Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review
A collection of the “Tea’s Weird Week” column from author Tea Krulos which shares his research, adventures, and stories from his personal life. Krulos writes about his favorite topics– the paranormal, bizarre subcultures, conspiracy theory, folklore, and more. Krulos shares stories from his youth, books he’s reading, as well as encounters with Flat Earthers, Krampus, Real Life Superheroes, Mad Max fans, Transhumanists, and other interesting people.
This collection contains all 26 “Tea’s Weird Week” columns from 2019 as well as 4 bonus articles he freelanced for other publications. Make your week a little weirder with this funny and informative round up of Krulos’s life and times.
Available on Kindle for $1.99/ free on Kindle Unimited: CLICK HERE
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
This picture grabbed my attention. It was taken shortly before shots rang out.
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.
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).
Tune in here every Friday for Tea’s Weird Week.
Today starts my 3-day vacation, where I’ll be doing nothing but laying in a hammock drinking pina coladas. Just kidding. I will be doing some kicking back at the Moonlight Retreat, but I’ll also be taking a red pen to a couple manuscripts and leading a ghostlore workshop.
Being somewhat in vacation mode (and looking forward to fall), for today’s column I thought it would be appropriate to round up of some stories I’ve studied this summer. I’m working on finishing up a book about conspiracy theory (American Madness) and 2019 has been a helluva year for it. This summer in particular feels like the one where we collectively lost our damn minds. [I included links to further reading.]
Here’s my top 5 Summer of Conspiracy stories:
(1.) Storm Area 51: I wrote about the viral “Storm Area 51” event in this column a few weeks ago. Now there’s going to be a 3-day “Alien Stock” music fest, already drawing comparisons to the disastrous Fyre Festival. As I wrote before, I’ve been through the area and Rachel, the town the fest is happening in, has a population of 58 people, no infrastructure, no shelter, no nothing– the nearest gas station is 50 miles away! Not the best place for an EDM festival. [USA Today]
(2.) QAnon Vigilante: One of my editors sent this article to me and I’m surprised I haven’t seen it more in the news cycle. Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, who was head of the Gambino crime family and spent most of his life avoiding death, had his ass capped by a vigilante conspiracy theorist named Anthony Comello, inspired by QAnon. I’ll be dissecting the story more in my book. [New York Times]
(3.) Flight of the Flat Earther. After aborting his mission last weekend, Flat Earther and rocketeer “Mad” Mike Hughes is set to blast 5,000 feet into the stratosphere in his homemade rocket tomorrow, which reads “Research Flat Earth” on the side and was funded by a hook-up dating app called Hud. The attempt will be filmed for an upcoming show called Homemade Astronauts for the Science Channel, which sounds fun. At first I was completely confused as to how launching 5,000 feet in the air could prove anything about Flat Earth as we have planes, hot air balloons, and hang gliders that can rise higher than that, but then I realized this is more about publicity. It’s not the journey, it’s how you get there. [Space.com]
(4.) V is for…Anti-vaxxer? This year’s San Diego Comic Con featured an appearance by a large group of protesters dressed as V, the character from V for Vendetta in a protest appearance made popular by Anonymous. A couple months earlier, the same (or similar) group protested outside of Disneyland for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, dressed as Star Wars characters. [respectfulinsolence.com]
(5.) Epstein Suicide Conspiracy. The most interesting news story of the last week for me was the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein. It was just crazy to see conspiracies explode and proliferate online within minutes of his death being reported. Because Epstein had some connection to both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, the theories were partisan– Trump had him rubbed out or the Clintons had him whacked (to fit the Clinton Body Count theory) or a Deep State cabal did. I even saw theories that Epstein made a getaway, leaving a dead hobo’s body in his place (a theory spread by the band Foster the People, among others, who tweeted “Epstein’s on a private plane to somewhere in the middle east getting prepped for plastic surgery right now”). [NBC News]
Alright, enough conspiracy– I’m off to the Moonlight Retreat. Have a good weekend!
My favorite barbershop is Jose’s. Sad to hear of namesake Jose Ortiz’s death. Here’s an “Off the Cuff” I wrote on him for the Shepherd Express back in 2008, after someone suggested I stop in and talk to him because he was an interesting person. Indeed he was.: https://shepherdexpress.com/arts-and-entertainment/off-the-cuff/barber-extraordinaire
My latest book is Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers. You can find it here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow
Tea reports on his weird week every Friday.
Every week is a little weird for me, but this week felt especially weird for everyone. The FaceApp (the one that makes you look old) is being called for investigation for it’s potential ties to Russian data mining, you can buy a drone-mounted flamethrower now, the trailer for the Cats movie is freaking people out, a five foot alligator (nicknamed “Chance the Snapper”) was caught in a lagoon in Chicago and in other weird alligator news, there was another story about flushed drugs creating “Alabama Meth-gators,”
But two other stories really grabbed my attention this week, both conspiracy related.
“Lets see them aliens.”
Wow, that Area 51 thing really blew up, huh? Started as a joke, the “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” Facebook event page now has over 1.5 million people saying they are “going” with more joining all the time. It’s produced a lot of hilarious memes, jokes, and genuine interest in the Area 51 story. A 2018 Netflix doc, Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers, is likely what helped inspired this.
As I watched the number of people saying they were going to the event rapidly rise, I suspected that although the majority were just in it for a laugh, by mathematics alone there had to be some people who actually will show up at the Area 51 site on September 20 (the event date) to try to pole vault over the fence wearing homemade body armor.
Forbes reports in an article titled “Some People are Taking ‘Storming Area 51’ More Seriously Than Others” that:
“Hotels and campsites in the area have reportedly received a boost in reservations because of the event, and the Air Force issued a stern warning to potential raiders.”
I’ve already been there (but not inside, I’m sad to say). I’m working on a book about conspiracy theory (out Aug. 2020 from Feral House) and in 2015 I joined the main subject of my book, a conspiracy theorist (among other things) named Richard McCaslin, in a trip down the Extraterrestrial Highway. We stopped at the Li’l Ale’ E’ Inn, and cruised by the perimeter of Area 51, which is a lot of desert and chain link fence. You’ll be able to read all about my desert adventure in the book, including the similarities between Richard and this “Raid Area 51” event.
Here’s a picture I took of the Extraterrestrial Highway sign. I was amused to see that a local bar’s “I Closed Wolski’s” sticker, an omnipresent sight here in Milwaukee, made it all the way down there (in the upper left corner of the sign).
As for attempting to raid Area 51, let me say that despite the event title, I’m pretty sure the base can stop you all, probably with a couple of well placed machine guns. So please just stick to making funny memes and keep yourself out of jail and free of bullet wounds.
Thanks to my friend Wendy who shared a link with me to an article titled “House orders Pentagon to say if it weaponized ticks and released them,” (and it’s been picked up by many news outlets over the last few days) which alleges that Lyme disease could have been part of an experiment to see how it could be spread in a military lab creation. It immediately reminded me of my conspiracy research. While working on the book, I’ve been studying programs that might sound like a conspiracy theory, but turned out to be true. Among the most bizarre were military attempts to weaponize bugs and bacteria in the 1950s.
These included the wonderfully titled Operation Big Itch, a 1954 deployment of cluster bombs filled with hundreds of thousands of fleas, dropped on a controlled testing site in Utah.
Operation Big Buzz was launched the following year, an experiment to see if 300,000 mosquitoes and dispersed from an airplane above Georgia. Further tests with mosquitoes in Georgia and Florida occurred 1956-58 including Operation Drop Kick and Operation May Day.
Another bizarre experiment was Operation Sea-Spray in 1950, in which the unsuspecting population of San Francisco was sprayed with bacteria, which led to at least 11 people getting serious urinary tract infections (one died) and was possibly responsible for heart valve infections and infections to intravenous drug users.
The catalyst for this recent inquiry to the Pentagon about ticks comes from a book published this year titled Bitten: The Secret History of Lime Disease and Biological Weapons by Kris Newby, which is now at the top of my “to read” list. I’m curious to see Newby’s research and if she lays out a compelling case. I’ll follow up in this column when I’m done reading it.
This Week’s Links
I had a great time leading a discussion with Linda S. Godfrey at Boswell Book Company for her new book I Know What I Saw. I wrote about the book for the Shepherd Express here: https://shepherdexpress.com/arts-and-entertainment/books/linda-s-godfrey-looks-for-monsters-in-i-know-what-i-saw/
Next tours I’m leading: Milwaukee Ghost Walks Third Ward tour tomorrow (7/20) and next Saturday, 7/27. CLICK HERE for tickets. I’m also doing the Cream City Tours Riverwest Pinball Wizards tour on 7/28, Facebook event HERE.
My new book Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers can be found here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow