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Tea’s Weird Week: Real Life Superheroes 2020 Survey Results

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First, I like to remember that there’s always new readers, so here’s a short intro– my name is Tea, and in 2009 I ran into a story that forever changed my life. I’ve always been fascinated by subcultures, and the “underground,” and I found a report of a movement of people that adopted their own comic book style personas and called themselves “Real-life Superheroes.” I wrote a magazine article about a RLSH here in the Milwaukee area named The Watchman and thought there was a bigger story so I traveled around the country, met about 100 RLSH, went on patrols, did research, interviews, had some strange moments, got punched in the face, and met a lot of cool people I’m still friends with today.

The result of all this was my first book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-Life Superhero Movement (2013, Chicago Review Press). There’s also a brief revisit to the RLSH (and a man who called himself the Phantom Patriot) in my new book American Madness (Aug. 25, Feral House).

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That’s me and The Watchman, 2009. Photo by Paul Kjelland.

 

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Here I am hosting a panel of RLSH at Wizard World Chicago, 2013.

I’m currently working on a research project that studies subcultures/social movements in the year 2020 and their responses to topical issues. That’s about all I can say about it right now. I’m not trying to be mysterious (or am I?) I’m just not sure what the final form of this project will be yet.

A logical place for me to start with this was the RLSH community, where I already had connections. Word of the study was spread on my Heroes in the Night News Facebook page. Many RLSH shared it on Facebook and on a RLSH thread on Reddit.

There were 56 responses, which I believe is a good sample size for this movement. It’s unknown exactly how many active RLSH there are– it isn’t like a club where people pay membership dues, anyone can say they are a RLSH, and people often disappear into the night (or the Internet).

I asked three RLSH I thought would have good insight for their estimate on active RLSH. Rock N Roll, one of the organizers of the multi-city Initiative teams says “maybe 100.” Discordia, who runs the site RLSH News places it slightly higher at around “120-140” or up to “200 if being generous.” And Razorhawk, a well connected RLSH, puts the range “between 100-200.”

My goal was to ask about topical subjects– the 2020 election, Black Lives Matter, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Polling is useful to see if a group leans strongly one direction or another on issues or if they’re split.

The Survey 

The “RLSH 2020 Survey” was 10 questions long. Questions 1-3 asked for name, city (or cities) they were active in, and any team affiliation.

Florida and California led with participants with 8 and St. Petersburg led the count by city with 6. There were 5 from Texas and Oregon, 4 from Seattle and 3 each from Illinois, Tennessee, and New York City. 15 other states had 1-2 representatives.

Several teams were represented, with the most coming from various branches of the Initiative and the Xtreme Justice League, followed by Bay Coast Guardians (St. Petersburg), ECHO (Seattle), PATCH (Chicago), and Firebirds (Dallas). Update– I’ve been informed that Bay Coast Guardians and Firebirds are divisions of the XJL.

Q4: Asked what activities RLSH engaged in. Participants were allowed to choose more than one answer. The results:

Patrols: 29.82%
Homeless outreach: 50.88%
Patrols and Outreach: 66.67%
Other: 52.63%

Q5: Asked who RLSH had voted for in 2016. My main reason for including this was to see if there had been any major shift in the community from 2016 to 2020. RLSH respoded:

Clinton: 35.85% (19)
3rd Party: 30.19% (16)
Trump 9.43%(5)
Not eligible: 18.87% (10)
Didn’t want to: 5.66% (3)
3 skipped the question

Q6: See chart below. More than one answer was allowed.

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Worst: 49.09% Bad/Bad: 49.09%

Bad person/good president: 3.64% Good person/bad president: 1.82%

Good/Good: 1.82% Best: 1.82% Mixed feelings: 9.09%

Q7: Who will RLSH vote for in November?

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Interesting in that after Biden (47.17%), 3rd Party candidates came in second (33.96%), similar to results from the 2016 election. I should have specified this more. If any RLSH are reading this and voting 3rd Party, please comment on this blog post to tell us if you’re voting Green, Libertarian, or something else, I’m curious to know. Trump got 5.66% and 15.09% said they are not voting, though I didn’t ask specifically if that was because they were ineligible or didn’t want to.

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A clear majority here– 83.93% of RLSH support Black Lives Matter, 5.36% (3 respondents) said they prefer the term “All Live Matter,” 1 respondent said they were indifferent, and 8.93% (5 respondents) said none of the answers above reflected their feelings.

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Another clear majority and perhaps not surprising as many RLSH wear a mask for long periods of time, sometimes while they’re running through alleyways. 91.07% said people should wear masks to prevent COVID while 8.93% said people should choose whether or not they want to.

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When I first started interviewing RLSH in 2009, they would often tell me that RLSH shouldn’t “be political” and I noted several cases where RLSH from extremely different backgrounds and belief systems worked together on various efforts.

But that was a different time. This answer was split Yes: 23.21% No:  28.57% Depends: 53.57% 

Thank you to all RLSH who participated. I’m keeping the info on who partook confidential, but one was Superhero of Clearwater, Florida, who took the survey just a three days before he died. You can read my obituary of him here: teakrulos.com/2020/07/20/death-of-a-superhero/
And please support the fundraiser in his honor here: www.gofundme.com/f/old-superhero

There is a giveaway for FREE copies of my book American Madness on Goodreads, open through Aug. 10. You can enter here: www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/309615-american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-th

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It’s available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE
Amazon: www.amazon.com/American-Madness-Conspiracy-Theories-Consciousness/dp/1627310967
and wherever books are sold.

Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.

Death of a Superhero

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Dale Pople aka Superhero

Imagine this– your car has run out of gas and you’re sitting stranded on the side of the hot Florida highway. You’re cursing out your bad luck when a corvette pulls up and a man clad in bright red, yellow, and blue spandex jumps out. He has a weightlifter’s physique and a bald head shining in the Florida sun.

He waves and smiles and says “need a hand?!” You stare in disbelief, thinking maybe you’re hallucinating in the heat. But the next thing you know, you’re sitting in the passenger seat of the Supermobile so you can fill a gas can up. He tells you his name is simply “Superhero.” He drops you off and waves cheerfully as he cruises away– all in a day’s work.

Dale Pople, to those who knew him, was “Super Hero,” or as he called himself in later years, “Old Superhero.” He was a well-known member of the Real-Life Superhero (or RLSH) community. He took his life this week at age 52.

He “didn’t grow up in the best of households,” was abused by his parents, and was harassed by bullies, so young Dale found escapism in the worlds of superhero comics and sci-fi. He joined the Navy, went to police academy, attempted a wrestling career, then found a job in television broadcasting. But the biggest part of his life was his adventures as the larger-than-life Superhero.

When I first began working on my book Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-Life Superhero Movement, Superhero was one of the first people I got in contact with. He was always helpful to me and I found him refreshingly honest and candid in talking about his motivations. He didn’t have some phony Batman origin story or tall tales in his patrol log– he was, he said, simply a guy who liked dressing up as a superhero to drive around and see if he could help the people in his community in Clearwater, Florida. He didn’t need a costume to help old ladies with their groceries or to help change a flat tire, but Superhero was his identity.

I wrote about Superhero in Heroes in the Night in a chapter titled “Early Prototypes,” which talked about my research into RLSH that were active prior to the community developing on message boards around 2005. Superhero had adopted his persona in 1998, though originally it was a wrestling persona. An injury cut his wrestling career short, but he next used the identity as a character in a pilot for a potential TV show, which was to be a fun, campy take similar to one of his favorite shows– the 1960s Batman starring Adam West.

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Young Superhero in his wrestling days,  late 1990s.

Other interests of Superhero included Godzilla (he had an impressive collection of toys), Star Trek, the film Logan’s Run, wrestling, true crime, and classic comics of the Golden and Silver age. He also loved spending time at the gym, where he met his wife, who would later be dubbed Lady Hero.

When the RLSH community began to develop in the mid-2000s, he was thrilled to find a like-minded group of people. He was incredibly supportive of his fellow RLSH and their endeavors. One of Superhero’s hobbies was to make custom action figures of the RLSH, carefully hand-painting the details. He enthusiastically took on his role in this movement of colorfully clad people by going on patrols, handing out supplies to the homeless, helping organize an annual toy drive, and other charitable work. In 2010, he helped create a milestone– his team of Florida based RLSH, Team Justice, became the first team to get non-profit status.

Superhero was often recommended as a media representative for the RLSH community and it’s easy to see why. With his broadcasting experience he was well spoken, charismatic, and had, as I described in Heroes, a “booming radio announcer voice.” He knew how to work the camera and give the RLSH story a good narrative. He was featured in the HBO documentary Superheroes, as well as The Adventures of Miss Fit, and a wonderful, award winning short documentary that focused on him titled Portrait of a Superhero. I included the video at the end of this post.

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Superhero and friends at San Diego HOPE, 2011.

I met Superhero in 2011 at the HOPE charity event in 2011 in San Diego. It was a great experience. I joined in and helped RLSH hand out a couple trucks worth of supplies to San Diego’s homeless population. Here’s an excerpt from Heroes in the Night, from the last chapter, “An Age of Heroes?” I described how I was in a truck helping to hand out food as a large group of homeless people gathered around it.

When the action died down for a moment, I stepped outside of the truck to get some air and check out the scene. It was surreal, but moving. Thanatos had his hand on a homeless man’s shoulder. The man had a bushy beard and was missing several teeth. The two of them were laughing and talking about the old Adam West Batman show. DC’s Guardian was in the street. Such a large crowd had showed up that he was worried it was a safety hazard, so he stood in the street, expertly directing traffic. Across the street, Superhero was instructing people to form an orderly assembly while Mr. Xtreme, Vigilante Spider, and Miss Fit helped hand out the backpacks and sleeping bags.

These people could have done anything with their summer vacations. They could have spent their time less than a mile away, where Comic Con was in full swing. But they chose to come here, sweat profusely under their spandex costumes, and work as a team handing out supplies to San Diego’s homeless population.

We did end up stopping by Comic Con later, where I have fond memories of sitting next to Superhero during the premiere of the aforementioned Superheroes documentary at the con and talking to him at the after party. I still remember his infectious laugh filling the room.

But behind that gleaming smile and brightly colored spandex, Superhero was struggling with some dark issues of depression. Be mindful that sometimes people who are so enthusiastic about helping others and making them happy are sometimes deeply suffering on the inside. Superhero wanted to save others, but he couldn’t save himself.

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Superhero and his Supermobile.

In a short, final Facebook video this past weekend, Superhero referenced following in the footsteps of his childhood hero, George Reeves, who played Superman on TV in the 1950s. Reeves was found dead in 1959, and police ruled that a gunshot to the head was a suicide. It’s a difficult video to see. Dressed in his Superhero costume (or “gimmick” as he called it), he is clearly shaken and overcome by what he knows will happen next.

“You know there was a time when I wasn’t too comfortable being Superhero,” he says to the camera. “But looking back at it, if I could have been somebody that made so many people happy and inspired so many people to do good– then he really wasn’t such a bad guy at the end of the day. He was all I was really good at being anyway,” Superhero says, shaking his head and giving his laugh one last time. “So until next time, it’s Superhero and– you know what to do!” That last sentence was his catchphrase.

In scrolling through my messenger with Superhero, I found I hadn’t talked to him directly recently, but found this message he sent after he had answered my final round of questions while working on Heroes.

“Looking forward to buying (the book)!” He replied to me. “You’ve been working on it for years. Anytime you want a patrol in the Supermobile, lemme know. If you’ll fit….you’re tall.”

That is one ride I would have loved to have taken with him, even if it meant that my knees were squished.

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Superhero’s custom figure of himself checking out my book.

A couple important things I’d like to share:

You know what to do! RLSH have organized a fundraiser to help with Superhero’s final mission. The fundraiser reads:

In Memorium of our friend Dale Pople, AKA “SUPERHERO”, we continue his final mission in helping the Pinellas Park, FL facility ‘Family Resources’, an agency dedicated to crisis counseling, safe shelter and safe respite for runaway teens, and notably at-risk LGBTQ teens.

Here’s the link, please donate and share: www.gofundme.com/f/old-superhero

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Superhero posted this July 6: “Well I just left Family resource center in Pinellas Park. Looks like we have a game plan. Let’s help some kids. Particularly I want to see if we can get some help for these LGBTQ teens in trouble.”

–We are living in very challenging times, which only adds to the stress people dealing with depression are feeling. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone.

The Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK(8255) and their website is here: suicidepreventionlifeline.org

You can watch Portrait of a Superhero directed by Tony Armer below, and see our friend Superhero in action.

Rest in Peace.

Tea Krulos is the author of Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-life Superhero Movement and American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness 

RLSH 2020 Survey

This is a call for participants for anyone who identifies as part of the Real Life Superhero (RLSH) subculture/ movement who is eligible to vote in the U.S. in 2020. I’m conducting a short survey that acts as a census to see what states/ teams are still active as well some questions about the year 2020– the presidential election, COVID, and Black Lives Matter.

The survey is just 10 questions, most multiple choice, and takes about 2 minutes to complete. The participants will be kept anonymous– only the data results will be shared. The data will be used in a report on this website and potentially in a future book that is a sociological study of subcultures.

This survey will be open through August 1, 2020. Any questions can be addressed to: teakrulos@gmail.com

The survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Z5NB2MF

Please help spread the word if you can and thanks for a participating!

–Tea Krulos, author, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-Life Superhero Movement

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RLSH gathered for a HOPE event in San Diego, 2012. Photo by Tea Krulos.

Tea’s Weird Week: Postcards from the CHOP

Red Simple Sale Twitter Post

I made a somewhat impromptu decision to spend the 4th of July weekend in Seattle. I’m working on a writing project (I’ll tell you about it in the future), and it was kind of irresistible to pass up a chance to explore the former Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), which was re-branded as Capitol Hill Organized (or Occupied, depending on who you talk to) Protest zone (CHOP). What better place to spend the holiday?

On June 8, protesters drove the Seattle Police Department out of their East Precinct and claimed a six block area (with the East Precinct and Cal Anderson Park as the center) as a “cop-free zone.” After that, “Free Capitol Hill” was held down to various results. Some described it as a summer of love street fest and others an anarchist warzone. The truth is, according to various people I interviewed, more complex than a quick label allows.

After a fatal shooting in the CHOP, a battalion of police and city workers opened it up and cleared protesters out early in the morning July 1, arresting anyone who resisted, removing tents and barricades.

Police kept everyone but residents out for a couple days after that, setting up a perimeter around the entire zone, giving the area the new nickname POOCH (Police Officer Occupied Capitol Hill). I wasn’t sure what I’d find, post-CHOP, but I thought it was worthwhile to go out and see the terrain and interview a few people.

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The East Precinct, abandoned by police June 8 and reclaimed July 1.

On Friday night, after a long day of wandering around Capitol Hill I met up with some Real-life Superheroes (RLSH). This is, if you didn’t know, an extremely familiar topic to me. My first book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-life Superhero Movement (Chicago Review Press, 2013) was a thorough look at this adventurous lifestyle. My upcoming book American Madness revisits the subculture briefly, too. I was particularly interested to talk to the Emerald City Heroes Organization (ECHO) because they had been spending a lot of patrol time in the CHOP.

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ECHO members, L-R: Justice Servin, Red Ranger, and Spirit Fox on patrol July 3, 2020 in the former CHOP.

My wildest moment over the weekend was observing the clash between a “patriot march” of the Alt-Right. They had proclaimed that “thousands” would be descending to dismantle the CHOP, but after police cleared they area, they said they would perform a “victory lap.” In reality, about 30 showed, including former Proud Boys, a group called Patriot Prayer, militia-types, and at least one openly showing off Nazi tattoos.

I’ll write in detail about what happened in the future, but the short version is Antifa, protesters, and Cap Hill residents chased the group out of town. Police broke up the conflicting sides at the beginning, but at some point just disappeared. The Alt-Right group tried to deter the protesters chasing them down by spraying clouds of bear mace into the street (several Cap Hill residents sitting on their porches got sprayed and joined in angry pursuit). I caught a good whiff of it. They would spray a huge cloud and then when protesters caught up with them again, they’d spray again– they did this 4 or 5 times (one time it backfired when the wind changed direction and they sprayed themselves).

Last time I was in Seattle (in 2011), by the way, I was following RLSH Phoenix Jones and witnessed an event called the “Pepper Spray Incident,” which I wrote about in Heroes in the Night. I guess every time I go to Seattle, I get a taste of pepper spray!

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On the scene of the protest.

Eventually police reappeared and gave the Alt-Right enough of a buffer to escape.

Converge Media is an independent news site based in Cap Hill and are out livestreaming protests and other actions every day. You can see their footage of the first part of the protest (keep an eye out for me– big, tall guy in a green Milwaukee Record shirt and black Fuel Cafe baseball hat) here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1022231294913417

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Alt-Right “patriot rally” in the CHOP, July 4, 2020.

The last day I ventured into the CHOP area was Sunday. It was a beautiful afternoon and I ran into several tourists to the CHOP taking pictures of the remaining graffiti, trying to capture this moment of Seattle history.

Here’s a couple random shots I took:

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Black Lives Matter mural down Pine Street in the CHOP area.

 

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Hello, you got a phone call from the CHOP!

 

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Random boarded up window in the CHOP.

 

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Statue of famous Seattleite Jimi Hendrix, right near the CHOP border at Broadway and Pine.

And here’s a postcard I designed for you:

Green Travel Vintage Postcard

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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: 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

Follow me on:
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“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

Follow me on:
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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

Book Giveaway!

Hey there, I hope your COVID-19 quarantine is going as good as it can be. Hang in there. I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading and I’m sure many of you have extra reading time, too, so I’m giving away two copies each of my books Apocalypse Any Day Now and Heroes in the Night. I think both books are as relevant now as ever as we try to navigate through this frightening, weird time.

To win a copy, share this post and then leave a comment on this post (here on the website or my social media posts, see links below) telling us all how you’re passing time during the quarantine or any experiences or observations you want to share. I’ll be entering all names into a drawing to select the four winners. Contest open til Monday, March 23, noon (CST).

Thanks and be well!

Yours Truly,

Tea Krulos

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Links to my books (click title):

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers

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

Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review

“Tea 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. Well worth your time.” — Mitch Smith, Goodreads/Amazon review

Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement 

Heroes in the Night is a deftly written, entertaining book that sheds light on the strange but timely, understandable and relevant subculture that is the RLSH movement.”– Pop Mythology

Monster Hunters: On the Trail with Ghost Hunters, Bigfooters, Ufologists, and Other Paranormal Investigators

“Tea Krulos’s Monster Hunters is not your average ‘seen-it-all-before’ study of Sasquatch, aliens, and creepy critters. It’s an eye-opening, witty, and insightful look at the people who have dedicated their lives to solving some of the world’s biggest mysteries. In many ways, the characters Krulos crosses paths with are as unique and fascinating as the ‘things’ they seek!” —Nick Redfern, author of Monster Diary and Monster Files

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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

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Tea’s Weird Week: The Super Troubles of Phoenix Jones

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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.

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Tea Krulos with Phoenix Jones on the streets of Seattle, October 2011. Photo by Lucien Knuteson.

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.

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Tea Krulos examines Phoenix Jones’s collapsible baton. Former girlfriend “Purple Reign” sits next to Jones. Seattle, 2011. Photo by Lucien Knuteson.

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.

“Seattle superhero Phoenix Jones charged after undercover drug bust,” Seattle Times.

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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/

HAPPINESS

#Trumpconspiracycounter2020 (2)

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.

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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

Tea’s Weird Week: Funny Ha Ha

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Tea laughs it up and weirds out here every Friday.

This column (and my life) focuses a lot on Funny Weird, but today I thought I’d talk about another interest of mine, Funny Ha Ha. People tend to know I’ve written about subjects considered unique or unusual like Real Life Superheroes, paranormal investigators, doomsday prognosticators, conspiracy theorists, etc. But as a freelance writer, I’ve written about a lot of things that wouldn’t be considered to be fringe. Topics I’ve written at least a couple articles on include local music, burlesque, roller derby, food/drink, theater, comic book artists, authors, and interviews with a wide range of Milwaukeeans for the Shepherd Express and other publications.

And I’ve always had a fun time writing about comedy. Really, how can you go wrong? You sit around and laugh, then write it up.

I’ve written a few articles on the local comedy scene here in Milwaukee, including a round-up of local open mics and an article on Milwaukee Comedy Festival back when they were on year 2 or 3 (they just did their 14th year!) In more recent years I wrote on the Milwaukee comedy scene in general in 2015 and did an “Off the Cuff” interview with Matthew Filipowicz of Laughing Liberally earlier this year. Fun stuff.

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Art from the Shepherd Express article on comedy.

Anyway, one of my favorite publications to freelance for is Scandinavian Traveler. I was contacted by them years ago when Risto Pakarinen editor (and author of a new novel, Someday Jennifer— congrats, Risto!) read my book Heroes in the Night and asked if I would be interested in penning an article on Real Life Superheroes.

Since then I’ve written a few articles for Scandinavian Traveler, including one on Chicago chocolatier Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut-Chocolat (a very delicious assignment), the Mars One program, and some checklists I compiled while I was on vacation in San Francisco.

Risto gave me an extremely delightful assignment for the July issue of Scandinavian Traveler, asking if I’d write about the improv school at the legendary Second City Chicago for their “10 Trips with a Purpose” cover story. I took a trip down to Chicago and participated in an improv class. I also interviewed artistic director Mark Hovde about the comedy biz and Second City’s amazing legacy as the starting point for comedians like Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Meyers, and so many other comedians that went on to Saturday Night Live, Comedy Central, and other comedy careers onstage and in writing rooms.

Here’s a PDF version of the magazine (my article is page 71-74): https://scandinaviantraveler.com/sites/default/files/st1907.pdf

ClownWatch 2019: 08/01/2019: IndieWire reports that the Alamo Drafthouse will have a “clowns only” screenings at 17 theaters on September 5 of It: Chapter 2.
Moviegoers are:

“encouraged to come dressed as a clown – the wig, the makeup, the oversized pants and suspenders, the blood-curdling makeup — and sit through this coulrophobia-inducing fright fest with a theater full of fellow clowns.”

Great googly moogly, what could go wrong?

The Week in Links

The Apocalypse Blog Book Club’s late summer selection is Feed by Mira Grant. Next selection will be made early October. The groups meets in person in Milwaukee and has online discussion world wide. Join the club here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1482975718409410/

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2019 is happening Sept.13-15. See a speaker line-up and get tickets here: https://milwaukeeparacon.com/2019/07/26/milwaukee-paranormal-conference-2019/

The Milwaukee Krampusnacht 2019 event page is live!: https://www.facebook.com/events/520974881979502/

Twitter: @TeaKrulos Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheTeaKrulos

November, December, 2015 in Review

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Photo from the Scandinavian Traveler article on Vosges Haute-Chocolat, a tasty assignment.

Ok, 2015 is drawing to a close. What a year! This year I kept track of every published article (and a book) I wrote, as well as the total running published word count. The year ended a little slow. I spent some time working on my next book, other projects, and took some time off for the holidays. I did write a second article for Scandinavian Traveler and a couple for Milwaukee Record.

 

 


NOVEMBER

41. “Off the Cuff: Angel Alvarez,” Shepherd Express, November 25

DECEMBER

42. “Meet Katrina Markoff- Chicago’s luxury chocolate maker,” Scandinavian Traveler, Dec. 10

43. “4 Milwaukeeans Who Recently Scored Bit Parts On Popular TV Shows,” Milwaukee Record, Dec.9

44. “Last Octopus standing: Milwaukee keeps car wash chain from extinction ,” Milwaukee Record, Dec. 18

Final total 2015 word count: 124, 865 words.

Notes on 2015:

The reason I kept track of my work this year was just out of curiosity. How many published pieces do I write in a year? I had no idea. My guess was an average of one a week. With 44 published pieces in 2015, that estimate was somewhat close. The word count was almost 125,000, but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you write a single haiku or a 500,000 epic novel in a year, as long as you are putting your best work forward. I’m still learning what my best work is. It’s been interesting. Krulos_Monster_7(1)

A lot of great highlights for me in 2015; My book Monster Hunters was published, I organized the first Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, I was a guest on Coast to Coast AM (along with a lot of other great radio and podcast programs), I made author appearances at paranormal cons, comic cons, libraries, and Ripon College, I sold my third book.

Writing is sometimes a struggle. You don’t know if anyone reads or cares about your writing. People sometimes say bad things about you and you wonder why you even bother. That makes recognition all the more rewarding.
Milwaukee Record included two articles I wrote for them (one on a music project called All Messed Up and another that was a photo essay collaboration with Wendy Schreier) in The 25 Best Milwaukee Record Stories of 2015.

In the post previous to this one, I also described what a great honor it was that my book Monster Hunters was selected by Loren Coleman of CryptoZoo News as the top pick in his Best Cryptozoology Books of 2015 list.

What’s up with 2016

I’ve got two major and two minor writing projects I’m working on in 2016. Outside of writing, I am also organizing a second Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Oct. 15-16, 2016, and hoping to help organize a Milwaukee Krampus Night on Dec. 5, 2016.

Major writing projects: I’m happy to say that my publisher, Chicago Review Press, has signed me up for a third non-fiction book. This has the working title The End and is about different predictions, preparations, and personalities relating to the end of the world as we know it. I also have a non-fiction book I am about 3/4ths done with that has a working title of Phantom Patriot, about an interesting person I met while working on my first book. My goal is to see some forward motion with it in 2016.

Minor projects: I want to self publish a mini-book/ e-book that is an expanded version of an article I wrote for the Riverwest Currents titled Riverwest Ghost Stories. It’ll premiere at the 2016 Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. I’m also casually working on my first novel, based on experiences from my young adult life. It might graduate from minor to major project in the future, but for now I’m just having fun writing random parts of the story for a couple hours every Sunday. I’ll post more info on this project here on the blog after I hit the 15,000 word mark. For now I will just say that the working title for the book is Brady Street Diner.

I have a couple other things in the works, too, I’ve been working on a comic book/ graphic novel with David Beyer Jr. titled Ballyhoo. We’re trying to figure out where to go with it and hopefully it gets forward traction soon. I’m also collaborating on a story with Tim Demeter and I think you’ll be hearing more about that soon.

Happy New Year!

 

The Four Most Frightening Things That Have Happened to me While Working on Books

(In Chronological Order) 1. The Pepper Spray Incident

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That’s me in the background, keeping an eye on Phoenix Jones on the streets of Seattle. Photo by Lucien Knuteson.

Date: Oct. 9, 2011 Book and relevant chapter: Heroes in the Night, Chapter 13: “People Fighting and Superheroes and Pepper Spray and…I Don’t Know”

Oh boy. In 2011 I was starting to do a wrap on Heroes in the Night. I felt the book was lacking a good action sequence, and I sure did get that when I paid a visit to Real Life Superhero Phoenix Jones and his Rain City Superhero Movement. I joined Phoenix out on patrol for two nights. On the second night, we saw a fight break out in a parking lot underneath a freeway ramp. Phoenix broke it up by pepper spraying the combatants (Russians, it turned out) and all hell broke loose. In the terrifying 15 minutes or so that followed, Phoenix got hit over the head repeatedly with a high heel shoe, I was punched in the face by a pepper spray soaked Russian, an attempt was made to run us over with a SUV, and at one point I was certain the angry party was searching for a gun to shoot at us. The police showed up and placed Phoenix Jones under arrest and by the next day major news networks around the world had picked up on the story. As the squad car drove off with Phoenix Jones, I realized that my hands were shaking uncontrollably from the adrenaline overdose.

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Here’s a photo of the Wall of Faces room I took in Bobby Mackey’s basement, where the strange incidents occurred.

2. Bobby Mackey’s Music World Date: Sept. 22-23, 2013 Book and relevant chapter: Monster Hunters, Chapter 14: “The Case of the Haunted Honky-Tonk”

This episode has a lot of back story to it. First there is the lore of the place itself (Bobby Mackey’s Music World in Wilder, Kentucky), which is long yarn to begin with. Like any good ghost story, I found the legend has been exaggerated and embellished over time, but some of the gruesome past is also based in fact. The next thing to consider is that the group I followed, the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee, had already done an eventful investigation at the location. I don’t want to spoil too much of the chapter, but one group member had an eerie encounter I witnessed where she had some sort of paralysis or possession and apparently experienced some temporary blindness. Added to the other frightening experiences the group had and the creepy atmosphere in general, it made for a strange and scary night.

squatch watch 048 3. Isabella Date: July 10-11, 2014 Book and relevant chapter: Monster Hunters, Chapter 9: “Squishes”

My second strange night while working on Monster Hunters happened while I was camping out with Jim Sherman of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) at a farm in central Michigan named “Isabella.” The couple who owned the farm had a number of weird experiences and had contacted BFRO. Jim had been out there to investigate and recorded some strange vocalizations. I wasn’t sure what to think. The last night of the trip I was scared out of my wits by a bloodcurdling screech outside of my tent. I slowly unzipped the tent door, certain I would be face-to-face with an aggressive Bigfoot. Later analysis of the screech (caught on Jim’s audio recorder) determined it was an angry coyote, but I didn’t know that at the time. To make the night even weirder, Jim and I observed an odd light bouncing around the night sky. What was it? I don’t know, but it was quite unlike anything I had seen before.

4. Crashing the Phantom Patriot’s ATV

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The ATV shortly before I crashed it.

Date: May 22, 2015 Book and relevant chapter: Yet to be titled future book

Wow, where to begin on this one. Richard McCaslin aka the Phantom Patriot is a Real Life Superhero, conspiracy theorist, former stuntman, felon, comic book artist, political protestor, and guerrilla filmmaker. I’ve been in contact with him for almost 5 years and have slowly been working on a book about his life and the people, sub-cultures, and conspiracy theories his life has intersected with. I knew I needed to get down to his home environment (Pahrump, Nevada) to get some material, so I recently went down to visit him. While I was there, he asked if I would act in a short superheroes vs. conspiracy film he was writing and directing. Sure, I said. One of the scenes called for me driving his ATV down a desert embankment, and although my first take went smoothly, on the second take I hit a rut and crashed the ATV. I thought for sure I had broken my leg and maybe fractured several other body parts, but after slowly moving around, I found I was still in one piece. That was pretty frightening, but hey, I lived to see another day, right?