This story was inspired by my appearance on Coast-to-Coast AM Friday night. I started writing this when it occurred in 2017, but I ditched the story…until now.
At 2AM, I locked the door to the Riverwest Public House and was alone in the bar. I was drinking whiskey and listening to The Damned, The Light at the End of the Tunnel compilation. I had first heard this album sometime in high school and remembered it one day at work and was like hey, great fucking album, and then started listening to it every night at closing time.
Closing the bar was a time of great peace for me– washing glassware, tossing bags of garbage in a pile by the door, stocking beer and bottles of booze, slowly walking the length of the bar, giving it a rub down with a bleach water soaked rag. Last step– have a drink and count out the drawer, then call a cab. I had just moved from Riverwest to Bay View.
The bars were closed and all of Milwaukee in a drunken sleep, so the taxi arrived quickly. I was a bit buzzed myself and crawled into the back seat.
“Do you mind if I listen to this?” The cab driver asked, gesturing to his radio dial. I heard the familiar voice of George Noory, primary host of Coast-to-Coast AM, the long running, gold standard of weird radio. I could hear Noory was discussing something extra-terrestrial related with a guest
“I don’t mind at all, I’m down with Coast-to-Coast,” I told the cabbie. He smiled and we headed to I-94.
I stared out the window as we crossed the Hoan Bridge. I always loved the view. I would say it’s beautiful, in an industrial way– cold and dark, no signs of life except the grinding and clunking of machinery. Blinking red lights and miles of pipes and smokestacks belching smog passed by as the Yellow Cab cruised over the mostly abandoned bridge. We were hit with a blast of the sewage scented lake, an acrid but familiar smell.
I could have told the cabbie that I, the bartender he had picked up, was in fact a guest on Coast-to-Coast a couple years prior. But I’m not the type of person that likes to walk around telling anyone and everyone about who I am. So instead me and the cabbie sat in silence, listening to the radio while I looked lovingly out the window at the rusty landscape passed below.
I love this strange city and my life in it. Noory continued his interview with some guy who is a UFO expert– someone who chose an odd path in life, a person who opened a door to a surreal dimension and never came back.
That’s what I love about life. You never know– that person standing in front of you in line at the grocery store might dress up in a homemade superhero costume at night to patrol the streets. The person sitting next to you on the bus could be a UFO expert…or a serial killer, I suppose. This cab driver– a novice conspiracy theorist?
And the person you might pick up in your taxi late one night might be a bartender who also happens to be a dude into a hell of a lot of weird shit named Tea Krulos.
Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep13, Ask Us Anything!
Tea Krulos and Heidi Erickson answers questions submitted via social media– find out about frightening weird encounters we’ve had and our deepest secrets. Plus we share weird news– Mothman sighted at State Fair, the MyPillow guy goes full Captain Ahab, killer robots, and the Big Mac champ of Wisconsin (and the world). Miss Information reveals trivia answers (and our winner) and we close out with a track from Victor DeLorenzo‘s new album Spoken Drum, “Bow.”
Thanks to our sound engineer Android138 and all of our guests this season. We’ll be back in September.
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep13: Ask Us Anything! (season finale) (podbean.com)
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Check out my latest books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
My first book, Heroes in the Night, was published in 2013 and was a deep examination of the Real Life Superhero (RLSH) subculture. I’ve had a plan to write a piece sometime in the near future titled “Heroes in the Night: Where Are They Now?” One of the most sensational people I wrote about in the book is an MMA fighter turned RLSH named Benjamin Fodor aka Phoenix Jones, leader of the Rain City Superhero Movement.
Where he is now is in, as Seattle station KOMO News notes, “super trouble.” On November 21 Fodor sold $500 of MDMA (“Molly”) to an undercover cop (who was tipped off that Fodor was dealing) and delivered it to him at a Starbucks. The agent sent Fodor $500 for a second delivery of Molly, but Fodor didn’t deliver. Around the time of this drug deal, Phoenix Jones was active, according to his Twitter, with posts from September-November 2019 saying he was repairing his “super suit,” “mapping and patrol areas and crime reports” in relation to taking out a local gang, and searching for a stolen vehicle.
After Fodor didn’t deliver the second purchase of Molly, the police agent switched tactics and decided to pose as a frisky young woman who wanted to party with Fodor and his girlfriend.
The Seattle Times reports:
Fodor and “Laura” exchanged text messages over three days. At one point, Fodor gave “Laura” his full name and encouraged her to Google him.
“Laura” responded: “OMG I just googled u … Superhero’s are hot lol. You really a superhero?”
Fodor and “Laura” made an arrangement for Fodor to deliver $225 worth of cocaine for a birthday party on January 9, where Fodor and his girlfriend were arrested with four grams of coke. They are scheduled for a court hearing on February 3.
Last I heard, Phoenix Jones was quite pissed off at me. I don’t think he was wrong to feel that way. In 2015, I was a guest on the radio show dedicated to all things strange, Coast-to-Coast AM, with the great George Noory. I was there to talk about my second book, Monster Hunters, but we spent some time talking about Heroes in the Night. I knew I had limited time on the subject, so I decided to roll with talking about one of the most frightening nights of my life– the night of the “Pepper Spray Incident.”
To recap: In October 2011 I voyaged out to Seattle to meet Phoenix Jones. My second night there, I was on patrol with Phoenix Jones, his teammate Ghost, and a videographer named Ryan. We spotted a group of people fighting in the street. Phoenix Jones ran into the midst of the battle and pepper-sprayed the combatants. The scene that followed was pure chaos– an angry woman beat Phoenix repeatedly with a high heel shoe, I was punched in the face by an angry, pepper spray soaked Russian, me and Phoenix were almost run down by angry, pepper spray soaked Russians in an SUV, I was almost arrested with Phoenix Jones (the officer let me go after I explained that I was a writer.)
Phoenix spent the night in jail. The incident was reported around the world and became a joke on Saturday Night Live. I wrote about that night in a chapter of Heroes in the Night titled “People Fighting and Superheroes and Pepper Spray and…I Don’t Know.”
I think Phoenix Jones was angry at me because I chose to share on Coast-to-Coast AM this moment where he had fucked up, a scene where the defender of Seattle caused a scene of dangerous chaos. People running around burning with pepper spray, screaming in Russian, and punching each other made for good radio.
I did not mention the charity events he had organized. I did not mention that he had inspired an entire team of Seattlites to spend their spare time patrolling the Rain City to protect their fellow citizens. I did not talk about how he had placed a car-jacker under citizen’s arrest or how he had dedicated his life to trying to be a superhero and helping people out. I always try to give a fair assessment of people, a nuanced look that talks about their good qualities and bad qualities. A lot of people I write about seem to be a mix of both. On Coast-to-Coast AM, I failed to do that.
Let’s back up for a second. In 2011, 20-year-old Phoenix Jones busts on the scene, energetic about being the world’s greatest superhero. I think he had heart and genuinely wanted to be a hero. But everyone told him he couldn’t.
Phoenix Jones was inspired by the RLSH movement, but found himself aggressively rejected by most of the people he hoped would be his peers. Not only rejected, but some RLSH developed an unhealthy obsession with his downfall. They said he was a liar (I think he embellished or fabricated stories to give him more street cred), a cocky egotist, a sell-out, a scammer. I believe some of this was jealousy over the massive amount of media attention he received, though the media was also not always kind to him. They called him an “idiot weirdo,” and brought up discrepancies in his stories. The police thought he was a pain in the ass. The City Attorney of Seattle dropped the charges against him for the Pepper Spray Incident, but reprimanded him as a “deeply misguided individual.” A loud chorus was calling Phoenix Jones a failure.
It makes me sad to think that all of this rejection possibly led Fodor down the wrong path. If everyone– the RLSH, the authorities, the media is chanting “you are no superhero,” I would think it would wear him down over the 9 years he has tried to do good as Phoenix Jones. Maybe he thought “if that’s what you’re telling me, I’ll just deal drugs instead.” Think of the jaded cops who get worn down and turn dirty, dealing drugs with the same people they are supposed to arrest.
Phoenix Jones, if you ever read this, I want to say that I hope you don’t give up on your dream to be an inspiration– I think you slipped, like most people do at some point in their life (I know I have). You should still strive to be a positive influence– the world needs it.
Sources: “Real-life Superhero ‘Phoenix Jones’ in super trouble, facing drug charges,” KOMO News.
My book Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement, features my adventures with Phoenix Jones and other RLSH. It’s available here: https://www.chicagoreviewpress.com/heroes-in-the-night-products-9781613747759.php?page_id=21
My upcoming book American Madness (August 2020, Feral House) also has a Real-Life Superhero tie-in. It tells the story of Richard McCaslin aka the Phantom Patriot, and his descent into conspiracy theory culture. Pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/American-Madness-Conspiracy-Theories-Consciousness/dp/1627310967/
The #TrumpConspiracyCounter has the goal to track every time Trump promotes a conspiracy theory or theorist in 2020. Here’s the update for January 21-28.
The conspiracy counter was ticking along slowly until an impeachment trial inspired TWEETSTORM! got the wheels whirring. In the last week Trump has retweeted conspiracy mongers almost 50 times.
09.) Our featured theory today is the image the President of the United States pinned on his Twitter January 23, seen here above. It’s his second count this year of personally promoting Spygate directly, the unfounded allegation that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower. Spygate is something Trump is still obsessed with, even though there’s no proof that Obama directed the FBI to spy on Trump (or that he hung outside Trump Tower with a giant suction cup and a pair of binoculars).
10.) January 21: Retweets his son Donald Trump Jr.’s retweet of Breitbart News. Technically every retweet of Junior should count, as like father, like son, he is a conspiracist who has retweeted InfoWars and promoted theories about the Clintons and George Soros. Can you imagine, though, if the conspiracy counter also included members of the Trump Empire family and administration? I’d have to hire full time staff to update the counter around the clock! This click is for the Breitbart retweet.
11-19.) January 21: Mark R. Levin, host of Levin TV on Blaze (or as I like to call it, InfoWars Lite), a network ran by conspiracy monger Glenn Beck (formerly of FOX). Trump’s retweets of Levin retweeted not just Blaze, but Levin’s sharing of other conspiracy peddlers like Breitbart News, Peter Schweizer (see last week’s column), and The Right Scoop.
20.-22.) January 21: Three retweets from Dan Bongino. In the past, Bongino has been a frequent InfoWars guest. He hosts his own podcast, The Dan Bongino Show, and is a major proponent of the Spygate conspiracy theory, penning a book titled Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump.
23.) January 22: Trump retweets a photoshop from White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino, a picture of him walking with an explosion labeled “Deep State” behind him. Deep State is a classic conspiracy term that refers to an undefined, shifting group of enemies, including Democrats, intelligence agencies, the media, Satanists, and whoever else conspiracists feel like throwing in.
24-31.) January 24: More retweets Peter Schweitzer / retweet of endorsement of Schweitzer’s book and Dan Bongino.
32-36. January 24: Retweets of Gregg Jarrett. Jarrett is a FOX legal analyst and author of books titled The Russian Hoax and Witch Hunt. Nuff said.
37-55.) January 25-28: More retweets from aforementioned #TrumpConspiracyCounter entries Breitbart News, Gregg Jarrett, Mark Levin, Dan Bongino, and Jack Posobiec.
56.) January 27: Trump retweets Dana Loesch, former NRA spokeswoman, host on the short-lived NRA-TV channel(2016-19) (and before that, Blaze and Breitbart). Not surprisingly, the NRA and their media is ripe with conspiracy theorists, including Loesch. Among many other things, she helped peddle a conspiracy that ISIS was behind a push for stricter gun laws because “terrorists agree, they want you to be disarmed,” Loesch said on NRA-TV.
#TrumpConspiracyCounter now has a Twitter page: https://twitter.com/TrumpConspirac3
“Krulos is one of the best chroniclers out there of the total craziness of our world today, and he does not disappoint in this book. He has a wickedly keen eye for high strangeness and a great voice to bring it to light.”– Mitch Smith, Goodreads review of Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review