Blog Archives

Tea’s Weird Week: The Chessboxer, Part 2

Last week I wrote about how my wheels were spinning thinking about what my second book might be (it eventually was an exploration of paranormal investigators titled Monster Hunters). One concept I had was learning to be a chessboxer. Chessboxing is a sport invented in the early 2000s that intersperses rounds of chess and boxing. You can win by knockout, checkmate, or by points from punches and captured pieces. In “The Chessboxer, Part 1,” I talked about hiring a chess coach, Aqeel.

My follow up is going to be short. I’m extremely burnt out this week, I wouldn’t even know where to begin to explain why.

In looking for a place to train as a boxer, I found a unique spot here in Milwaukee, it’s called the Ace Boxing Club. It’s not a state-of-the-art MMA facility, but more like an old garage with well worn equipment. It was mostly perfect. I wrote about the gym for an article in the Shepherd Express back in 2012. I sometimes look back at old stuff I’ve written and cringe to various degrees, but I actually love this one. It’s a solid profile on a place with a lot of heart: Ace Boxing Club and the Porter Legacy – Shepherd Express

Photo inside Ace Boxing Club from the Shepherd Express

I trained at Ace in the ring, I trained with Aqeel on the chessboard, but then something happened: I sold my second book. I now had a big project to work on and between that and trying to balance everything else in my crazy life (a struggle I still have ten years later) the lessons began to be skipped and the idea faded away. That’s too bad. I really enjoyed that period of my life. Maybe I’ll try to bring it back and The Chessboxer will live again.

We skipped the TWW podcast this week cause I was too busy. We’ll be back next week.

Follow me on: Substack//Facebook Group//Twitter//Instagram

My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Tea’s Weird Week: Amberrose Hammond’s New Book Explores Mysterious Michigan

This week on the Tea’s Weird Week podcast, I talked with Michigan researcher and author Amberrose Hammond. As discussed in last week’s TWW column/podcast, I’m co-authoring a project with my friend, travel writer Jenny Sanchez called Paranormal Road Trip. As such, I’m checking out work by authors who have written about local paranormal hot spots you can visit to find out what legendary places need to be included in our guide.

Amberrose is author of Ghosts and Legends of Michigan’s West Coast, Wicked Grand Rapids, and she has a new book coming out titled Mysterious Michigan: The Lonely Ghost of Minnie Quay, the Marvelous Manifestations of Farmer Riley, the Devil in Detroit More. It’s release date is August 29 from the History Press (the same publisher of my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore).

I had a great time talking with Amberrose about some haunted locations as well as lore like Detroit’s legend of the Nain Rouge, a devilish imp and omen of disaster, and the urban legend of the Melonheads (which was probably perpetuated by one of Amberrose’s mischievous friends).

If you’re a legend tripping crossing through Michigan or just a fan of storytelling, I recommend checking out Amberrose’s work. You can find a link to the TWW episode below, and be sure to check out Amberrose’s website, which has a pre-order link to her new book: Home | Amberrose Hammond

She also co-hosts the Ghostly Talk podcast, also recommended, which you can find here: Ghostly Talk Radio

Tea’s Weird Week S5, ep05: Amberrose Hammond’s Mysterious Michigan
Tea talks to Amberrose Hammond about her upcoming book, Mysterious Michigan. Tea and Heidi discuss weird news about Ukranian mutant super soldiers and more, trivia and a track from Sunspot’s new album, The Strangest Frequency, “We’ll Be Seeing You Again.”

Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S5 ep05: Amberrose Hammond’s Mysterious Michigan (podbean.com)
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Tea’s Weird Week: Introducing Paranormal Road Trip

I currently have around 3 books in the development process. I’ll tell you about one of them, cause it’s movin’ along: Paranormal Road Trip, which will be a fun travel guide to haunted locations you can visit, monster museums, and other eerie attractions across the country. This is rare in that this is the first book I am co-authoring with someone else. Jenny Sanchez is a wonderful travel writer from Denver. She works in the travel industry, has her own travel blog/platform (Long Days Travel) and contributes to Atlas Obscura. We met when she visited Milwaukee and we hit it off.

Paranormal Road Trip authors Jenny Sanchez and Tea Krulos at Milwaukee’s famously haunted Pfister Hotel.

We’ve been working on this project for a little bit, so far compiling entries onto shared Google docs, meeting up on Zoom to talk once in awhile. It’s a big project, but we’re working at a slow but steady pace, looking up entries to get all the information, insider tips, and of course the spooky stuff. Jenny’s been working on some Mountain and West Coast states, I’ve been focusing on the Midwest and New England.

It’s a fun project. We’ve got a book proposal, so wish us luck in landing this with the right publisher, so we can get this guide into your hands! We’ll keep you posted.

Tea’s Weird Week, S5 ep04: Paranormal Road Trip
I talk with Jenny about her travels this year to Idaho and Saint Louis to visit paranormal hotspots and quirky attractions. Then me and Heidi talk about a flurry of squatchy news– Coyote Peterson finds an alleged sasquatch skull, Oklahoma man says he murdered his Bigfoot controlling fishing partner, a classic Wisconsin sighting and more. Plus trivia and we close out with a track from Pretty Frankenstein, “In Mirrors.”

Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S5 ep04: Paranormal Road Trip (and Bigfoot news) (podbean.com)
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Tea’s Weird Week: My Favorite Jann Goldberg Quotes

I’m sad to say I lost another friend this year. It’s been a rough one for losing creative, wonderful people. I met Jann Goldberg right at the beginning of working on my second book, Monster Hunters: On the Trail with Ghost Hunters, Bigfooters, Ufologists, and Other Paranormal Investigators (2015, Chicago Review Press). I was looking for a local ghost investigation team to follow around and found the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee (PIM). I liked everyone I met in that group, but I especially hit it off with Jann. She was really into nerd culture and she was hilarious– easily could have pursued a career in stand up.

I was especially amused by how by how crass and vulgar her humor was. She reminded me of my beloved co-worker Mo ( I wrote about her in my Brady Street Pharmacy book) who made swearing an artform. As such, Jann had some of the most colorful quotes in Monster Hunters. Here’s my favorites.

L-R: Razorhawk, Tea Krulos, Jann Goldberg. Photo by Wendy Schreier Photography.

On her language:

“My sister used to work with me and they used to call us the sailor sisters because of our filthy mouths and shit, but I mean that’s just how we were raised. My mom says ‘God I hate it when people don’t know how to fucking swear,’” she told me, laughing.

Although her feelings on her team later changed, I remember thinking how great this quote was, about being part of a team:

“It’s like a fifteen-hour-a-week job you pay for instead of get money,” Jann told me, letting out a short laugh. “This isn’t a paying job. You travel together, sleep on hotel floors together, you’re eating in crappy restaurants, investigating bat-infested, rat-infested shitholes. In the middle of the night you’re looped up, buzzed on caffeine, talking about your marriage and your kids and all this shit. Honestly, with the exception of my parents and husband, I’m tighter with these guys than anyone else in my family. It’s just…really a different thing.”

This quote was about the trouble the team had when talking to people whose homes had been visited by other investigation teams that would tell them they probably had a case of demons:

“If you’re a group like ours that goes into a place after these groups that have already been there and told all this bullshit and you have a family that’s scared– there was some group that told a family they had a portal to hell in their house—that is shit you have to deal with. And I mean, shame on them for believing it, but you don’t know what someone’s mental condition and for them to go in and say this, it’s like what are you doing?!”

On one of her teammates not being familiar with Yom Kippur:

“Jesus Christ. Haven’t you seen Fiddler on the fucking Roof?” she retorted. “Anti-Semitic, misogynist assholes,” Jann huffed, turning to me. “Be sure to write that down and quote me on it in the book.”

On me joining PIM on one of their investigations of the notoriously haunted Bobby Mackey’s Music World:

“Investigating Bobby Mackey’s this early in your paranormal career is like losing your virginity to Jenna Jameson,” Jann told me shortly before I headed toward Wilder, Kentucky.

When I wrote the epilog to the book, I revisited several people I had written about. But who to give last word to? I decided it had to be Jann. I wrote about her then recent return to Bobby Mackey’s (with a different group) and ended the book with this:

“It was fun this time. That weird thing only happened with my stomach once,” Jann told me. But why would she return again and again to a place where she had such frightening experiences? That was an easy question, she told me.

“To find some fucking answers.”

Tea’s Weird Week S5 ep03: Butterfly Sanctuary Conspiracy Attack

This episode has a short audio clip from one of my interviews with Jann, plus I talked to Eric and Kim Hayden, producers of the American Madness documentary adaptation about their recent trip to shoot interviews at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Who would be insane enough to come up with a theory that this beautiful sanctuary is really a front for drug and child sex trafficking? Oh right, QAnon.

Plus me and my co-host Heidi Erickson talk about the Georgia Guidestones (I’ll also have a column on that next week) and the CERN Large Hadron Collider and the Mandela Effect. There’s also trivia from Miss Information and a banger from Mini Meltdowns, “Super Blue.”
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S5 ep03: Butterfly Sanctuary Conspiracy Attack (podbean.com)
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Follow me on: Substack//Facebook Group//Twitter//Instagram

My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Tea’s Weird Week: A Tale of Two Chupacabras

There are two types of Chupacabras within you. Let’s discuss.

Well, actually, maybe I should back up. When my book Monster Hunters was released in 2015, I decided to celebrate by creating a Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. We needed a snappy logo and I decided on a Chupacabra. But why– Chupacabras has no connection to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, right? It’s legend is found in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia, and southern states like Texas and New Mexico.

I’ll tell you why. Chupacabras are 100% certified badass, that’s why. That’s it. Plus artist David Beyer had drawn an incredibly badass Chup for Monster Hunters, for a chapter titled “The Slaying of the Chupacabras,” so we recycled that art into the logo. I wanted to switch up art every year, so subsequent MPC Chup logos were designed by artists Catherine Palmeno (2016), Alex Groh (2017), Tim Demeter (2019- we skipped’18), and Estephanie Mendoza (2021- we had a virtual event in 2020, that year we had a Sasquatch/UFO designed by Margot Lange).

I happen to love the word, story, and imagery of CHUPACABRAS. In fact, I have a long delayed fiction that has a trio of Chupacabras in the storyline. I would love to work on that some day (but it won’t be some day soon).

The first Chupacabras reports can be traced back, specifically, to Puerto Rico (let’s call it Chupacabras puertoricanus). In his book Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore (University of New Mexico Press, 2011), researcher Benjamin Radford lays out a compelling case that the original Chupacabra case stems from a Puerto Rican woman who had just seen the movie Species (1995) and shortly after claimed to have seen a similar creature on her property. Like the creature in Species (which was designed by the great artist H.R. Giger), this monster was described is looking somewhat like a hunched over Grey alien with rows of long spines on it’s back; later depictions also included bat-like wings and fangs.

A Chupacabra sketch based on the first eyewitness account in Puerto Rico,

The news grew bat wings on the island and soon people were talking about US experiments gone wrong and the creature was blamed for reports of livestock allegedly found drained of their blood. Chupacabras translates to “goat-sucker.” As my TWW podcast co-host Heidi likes to say: “Chupacabras: they really get your goat.”

The second style of Chup comes from the Mexico-US border area (Chupacabras texmexus) some years later. These reports, it was quickly determined, were not of supernatural creatures, but rather of poor dogs, foxes, and coyotes suffering from bad cases of mange. Mange causes animals to lose their fur. Imagine driving under the moonlight on a rural road and your headlights happen upon this poor devil lurking on the side of the road:

A “Chupacabra” spotted on a golf course in South Carolina. The poor critter is a fox or coyote with mange.

The southern Chupacabra has taken on a life as it’s own and sometimes you’ll see a crossbreed of the two– a canine-like animal with spines down the back and extra-terrestrial black eyes. Ah, the life of a Chupacabra breeder.

So now, as we begin planning stages of Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2022, I asked artist Jill Zgorzelski to design this year’s logo. She asked if I was looking for the Puerto Rican or Southern version, and although our previous artists have gone with the Puerto Rican, I told her either is acceptable, because we need to let all Chupacabras into our hearts and minds. She’s going for the Southern fried version and I know she’ll do something great.

SEE ALSO: My book Monster Hunters is still available here: Monster Hunters | Chicago Review Press

Keep an eye out for the new art and Milwaukee Paranormal Conference updates on our website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

Check out Jill Zgorzelski’s art page here: Jill C. Zgorzelski | Facebook

Follow me on: Substack//Facebook Group//Twitter//Instagram

My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Tea’s Weird Week: Paranormal Real Estate Mogul

For this week’s TWW podcast I talked to my friend Crystal Schmidt, who is a Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group moderator and was a guest on the TWW podcast back in season one to discuss wrestling and politics (Crystal has a podcast called Wrestling Public Radio, which is absolutely great). Crystal is also a realtor, so I thought it’d be fun to talk to her about something that always captures my curiosity– paranormal real estate. We talked about when you might have to disclose a ghost or murder in your home and some properties that are (or were recently) on the market.

Here’s some notes on these deals that will get scooped up by me after I win a million billion dollars in the lottery and become a PARANORMAL REAL ESTATE MOGUL.

Property: Earlshall Castle
Selling for: unlisted amount
Notes: A 34-acre estate with a 10-bedroom, 6 bath 16th Century castle (and the world’s oldest golf course) visited by Mary, Queen of Scots, and owned by relatives of Robert the Bruce. Also comes with a ghost, “Bloody Bruce,” the ghost of the Baron Andrew Bruce, whose ghostly footsteps can be heard walking up and down a spiral staircase. Sellers don’t want to talk ghosts but obvs it would make the ultimate haunted AirBnB.

Property: Village of Lawers
Selling for: $172, 859
Also from Scotland– an entire haunted village, or at least the ruins of one. Stone ruins are all that are left, part of the three acres of property includes a beachfront on Loch Tay. The Lady of Lawers has been haunting the land since the 1600s– while alive she was a well known soothsayer who accurately predicted local catastrophes and the coming of the railroad. As I discussed with Crystal, the fairly low investment doesn’t take into account building something on the property with running water, electricity, etc. It would well if you could gently maintain the ruins and make a small camping ground/ cabins with a new central building that had showers, a kitchen, etc.

Property: Lizzie Borden’s House
Sold for: $2 million

This Fall River, MA property sold in Spring of 2021, and it looks like it went to the right hands. The home where Andrew and Abby Borden family were murdered with an ax Aug. 4, 1892. Daughter Lizzie Borden was charged, but acquitted. The house has operated as a bed and breakfast and museum since the 1990s, and will continue to serve that function under new owners. They will be adding one new feature, though– ax throwing.

Property: The Conjuring House

Selling for: $1.2 million
This Rhode Island farmhouse is the basis for the story that inspired The Conjuring. It was a story spun by ghost hunter couple Ed and Lorraine Warren, and although their investigation was problematic (see my column “The Conjuring: 1992 Sally Jessy Rafael Edition” for a taste of the insanity) there’s no doubt the house is now a paranormal and horror landmark and as such a good investment to rent out to paranormal researchers and horror fanatics.

Property: Area 51 Ranch

Selling for: $4.5 million
Notes: This 80-acre cattle ranch borders Area 51, so close that the cows often wander in to the mysterious base’s property. Four and a half mill is a lot of dough, but a good investment if you want to run a cattle ranch and have a side hustle of setting up a UFO research center with some observation towers so people can skywatch to look for crafts flying in and out. Also, prostitution is legal in Nevada, so you could open an extra-terrestrial themed brothel. SOLD.

Tea’s Weird Week, S4 ep03, Paranormal Real Estate Mogul: I talk to Crystal about paranormal real estate and what I’ll spend my (theoretical) billions on, then me and Heidi discuss weird news, including a check in on the Dallas QAnon cult, a galldang book burning, Grimacecoin, and more. New trivia from Miss Information and we close out with a track from Mini Meltdowns, “I Wanna Die (feat. Psychey Ikey) [Electronic Remix]”

Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S4 ep03: Paranormal Real Estate Mogul (podbean.com)
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Follow me on: Substack//Facebook Group//Twitter//Instagram

My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Tea’s Weird Week: What the Rougarou Do

Tea’s Weird Week, Season 3 starts today! Our previous two seasons were 13 episodes long, this time we’re doing ten episodes (but also a couple special episodes, like a holiday “Radio Krampus” special). This is our first autumnal season, so we got plenty to do and talk about– ghosts and monsters and much more. We’ll be recording live at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, September 24-26 and if you’re in the area hope to see you there: Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Returns Sept. 24-26, 2021 | Milwaukee Paranormal Conference (milwaukeeparacon.com)

We’re kicking things off this episode with a talk with Lyle Blackburn, a Texan author, musician, speaker, and narrator of documentary films for Small Town Monsters, a great independent production company that has created a series of documentaries on cryptozoology and other paranormal cases. Oh, and he’s also started his own line of handcrafted hot Monster Sauce!

Lyle Blackburn

Lyle has specialized in writing about cryptid cases from the South, documented in his books like Lizard Man: the True Story of the Bishopville Monster, Sinister Swamps: Monsters and Mysteries from the Mire, and The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster, among others. That last title, about a Bigfoot-like creature stalking the Boggy Creek area of Arkansas, led Lyle to his first collaboration with Small Town Monsters. He’s since narrated several of their documentaries, include their new film, Skinwalker: Howl of the Rougarou. It’s out September 14. Here’s a trailer for the film:

As the trailer mentioned, the Rougarou is a tale of Cajun folklore from Louisiana. The word is derived from loup garou, the French word for “werewolf.” It’s said a curse can be placed on you that will transform you into a Rougarou under the moonlight in the Louisiana bayous. Some people have even claimed to have encountered this terrifying wolf creature.

Lyle told us more about the Rougarou legend, his work on the documentary, and the low down on some of the other projects he’s got going on, and let us know about a new destination on the Tea’s Weird Week bucketlist– the Rougarou Fest, which happens every fall (Oct. 22-24 this year) in Houma, Louisiana. It featues live music, delicious Cajun-style food, and they crown a Rougarou Queen– Oooooowooooo!

This episode also features me and Heidi Erickson trying to figure out this week’s weird news– people horsing around with Ivermectin, Christians Against Dinosaurs (“Big Paleo,” LOL), demons sending text messages, an expensive porno stash, and more. Plus original music by Android138, a new trivia question from Miss Information, and we close out with a track from Lyle’s hellbilly band, Ghoultown, “Night of No Tomorrows,” off their latest album, The Curse of El Dorado.

Tea’s Weird Week, S3 Ep01: “What the Rougarou Do,” Listen here: Tea‘s Weird Week, S3 ep01: What the Rougarou Do (podbean.com)
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art by David Beyer

Follow me on: Substack//Facebook Group//Twitter//Instagram

Check out my latest books:

American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)

Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)

Tea’s Weird Week: The Story of the Great Roswell Debate of 2016

Mark O’ Connell (left) and Donald R. Schmitt at the Roswell Debate, Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2016. Photos by Wendy Schreier Photography.

In 2015 I was really hyped about the release of my second book, Monster Hunters: On the Trail with Ghost Hunters, Bigfooters, Ufologists, and Other Paranormal Investigators (Chicago Review Press). Writing the book had been a blast– I had travelled around to meet investigators and go on Lake Monster and Bigfoot expeditions, went to a UFO conference, and spent several long nights trying to detect evidence of ghosts, among other adventures.

As I was thinking of book promotion, I had this light bulb moment– why not create an event that would showcase my work, fill a niche, and be hella fun? I could invite some of the people I had met while working on the book as guest speakers! I knew a ton of cool artists that could be vendors! I found a venue– the Irish Heritage and Cultural Center, located in an old (probably haunted) church that didn’t cost an insane amount to rent out. I was all in.

I started to assemble a line-up of speakers and turned to people I had met in my research like Noah Leigh (founder of the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee) and Allison Jornlin (founder of American Ghost Walks) for suggestions on potential guest speakers. We had a good line-up of speakers on cryptozoology as well as ghost experts– but I wanted some UFO talks. Two of the suggestions were Donald R. Schmitt and Mark O’ Connell.

While doing research for Monster Hunters, I had encountered Schmitt– I had seen him give a talk at the International UFO Congress in Arizona and realized I had probably read one of his books about the Roswell UFO crash in the 90s– as a teen I had been on a kick reading about UFOs, as teens tend to do. You might call Don “The Roswell Guy” as he’s written several books on the subject. I had no idea Schmitt was from Wisconsin and thought, wow, that’s cool, so I contacted him and he agreed to give a talk about Roswell.

I was also told that Wisconsin was home (at the time) to a writer named Mark O’ Connell, who had penned scripts for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine and was working on a biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, astronomer and pioneer of UFO studies. I thought, wow, that’s also cool, and I contacted him and he agreed to give a presentation on Wisconsin UFO cases. So now I had a great conference lineup of ghost researchers, Bigfooters, a Goatman expert, a panel that I was going to moderate, and the UFO talks and I started to post info about them online.

I got a polite email from Mark saying that he saw that Don was going to be at the event and that he did not really get along with him, so he wanted to prevent an awkward situation– for example putting them on a panel together. I didn’t find this to be too unusual– while working on Monster Hunters I had encountered many paranormal beefs. I spoke to a member of a ghost investigation group almost entirely composed of ex-members of a different group. I learned about Bigfooters who hated each other with a big, hairy passion. There are many rivalries in all the paranormal fields. I responded to Mark and told him that they would not cross paths. I still don’t know exactly what their dispute was about, but it had something to do with the J. Allen Hynek research (I think, don’t quote me on it).

The day of the conference was exhilarating and all kind of a blur. I was (at times literally) running around making sure things were running smoothly. We had a good crowd. There had not been any sort of paranormal themed conference in Milwaukee for over ten years and we got a good reception. Don was the last speaker of the day, and by this point I could take a breath and grab a beer (this is Wisconsin, where people drink anywhere and everywhere and the Irish Center’s bar was busy all day). I walked into the main room of the Irish Center to see how Don’s talk was going over. I looked up at the second floor balcony of the room, and noticed that Mark and his wife were sitting there, watching Don. Well, well, I thought. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Or something like that.

The after party was at Shaker’s Cigar Bar (probably haunted) and I sat down and had a drink with Mike Huberty, Allison Jornlin’s brother and organizer of American Ghost Walks. Mike had really saved my ass that day, as I am all thumbs with technology, but he is a mix-master, so he got things up and running on the main stage. We somehow got on the topic of Don and Mark and Mike made the joke that they should get up on stage and debate each other. We laughed about it.

Inspired by the success of the 2015 event I decided to do the conference again and to GO BIG in 2016. I’m not ashamed now to say that I got in over my head. Too big, too fast. I decided to do a 2-day event, switching the location to facilities at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. There was so much going on– 2 speaker rooms, a workshop room, a vendor floor, a livestreamed media table, a paranormal sound booth, there were guests like Loren Coleman and Katrina Weidman being flown in, a VIP dinner party, a film screening session. I knew the enormity of the task and began planning in September 2015, a bit over a year from the October 2016 event.

That’s me in the middle with cryptozoologist Loren Coleman (left) and paranormal investigator Katrina Weidman, MPC 2016 VIP dinner party.

The 2016 conference took over my life, I lost a shit ton of money that I didn’t have, and afterward I sank into a depression that stretched through the rest of that fall and winter. But I’m getting off track. I started lining up guests and emailed Don about returning as a guest speaker. His reply was quite intriguing and included this sentence: “I would be willing if it could also include a debate between me and Mark O’ Connell over Roswell.”

Whaaaaaaaat.

Of course I was into the idea. Conference programming can sometimes be dry and dull, so this was an exciting proposal. I also really believe that debate is a valuable skill and that society would be better off if more people learned how to think critically and present arguments. I emailed Mark and he said he was “very interested” as long as acceptable terms were established. Game on! Now I just needed to figure out how to properly run a debate.

After some searching I found David Henning, Director of Debate and Forensics at Lakeland College in Plymouth, Wisconsin. His credentials were impeccable and he was not involved at all in the world of paranormal research and as such was an impartial moderator.

David received, as many innocent people have over the years, a very strange email from me requesting help. I was thrilled when he replied that he was willing to establish debate rules and moderate. David gave me a couple of debate formats that might work and we agreed on one that would total 60 minutes with an additional 15 minutes for questions from the audience. Each speaker would have a 3-minute opening statement, followed by six topic questions with each speaker given 2-3 minutes response and alternating debaters given a 1 minute rebuttal.

David explained to me that “this format forces debaters to focus on word economy and clear, concise issue analysis.” (gavel cracks) Sounds good to me. The questions were to be shared ahead of time so the debaters could prepare. I’ve done a lot of non-fiction writing, everything from short blurbs to books, and a key ingredient is usually asking the right people the right questions, so I racked my brain on topics. But I had time, after discussion with all parties we determined it would fair to give the debaters questions one month before the debate to prepare. I put the debate aside and worked on the hundreds of other details of the conference that needed to be attended to.

Fast forward to September 2016, a month before the conference. I assemble the questions, like “Is it time for UFOlogy to move on from the Roswell event?” and “What impact has the Roswell Slides had on UFOlogy? Has it damaged credibility in the UFO field?” To explain that last question, Don had been involved in revealing photos that had been found on slides in a case that had been sitting in an attic for decades. One appeared to show an extra-terrestrial corpse, and the photo date was 1947, the same years as the alleged Roswell crash. Upon being revealed, researchers were able to deblur a placard in the image and discovered that the photo was of the mummified remains of a child that were on display at a museum.

The Roswell Slide

Don replied that he felt the questions were “slanted” against him. I replied that I was glad to talk to him about suggestions on changes to the wording, but he replied “Let’s go with what you have. No problems.” At this point I didn’t have time to ask twice– I was being bombarded with questions about the conference day and night.

My next message from Don said that in lieu of his 3-minute opening statement, he wants to show a video instead. This new twist was unusual, so I turned to David Henning for his opinion– he was the expert after all. David was inclined to reject the video idea entirely, but after some discussion was agreeable to it if all parties involved can view the video. Don wasn’t happy. When I told him David’s determination, he replied:

“Why don’t I send you all my answers as well? Is this a debate or a scripted reality show? I have participated in many debates through the years and have never been asked to provide my playbook before the game.”

This made me wonder what the hell does he have on video that was so secretive and important? Did he hire a private eye to tail Mark and capture some salacious indiscretion? Did he have actual film of the Roswell aliens? In any case, I had a sinking feeling that the debate was probably off.

After several days of back and forth, Don relented and sent me his video opening statement. I paused what I was working on to check out the video and it was… a clip from a George Carlin stand-up routine?! One of the classics where Carlin is angry and speaking out against the club we’re not a part of– the corporations, the fucking government. I use the F-bomb here because George uses a variation of it six times in this clip, but in the video Don gives me all the profanities are muted out. (Remember that detail.) You can see the exact clip right here (and yes I did title it “George Carlin Reveals the Secret Plot to Cover Up the Roswell UFO Crash.”)

I was quite baffled. This is what all the drama was about? I guess the video message was that “they” were covering up Roswell and that Mark was complicit in it? I can only speculate, but I think Don thought if he could surprise everyone with this clip that Carlin’s ranting would throw Mark off, unnerving him. Maybe in the same way chess master Bobby Fisher would try to throw his stoic Russian opponents off by demanding the room be rearranged, the lighting changed, and by making erratic movements on the chessboard.

As moderator, David was not happy with this twist as he thought Don was just trying to turn the debate into a “farce.” Mark was puzzled, but ok with the video, except for his concern that Don would swap the video out at the last second with something else and wondered if we had a killswitch in the event this happened. I assured him that we would be playing the video Don sent and wouldn’t allow him to switch it out.

As it turns out, Mark’s suspicion wasn’t unfounded. Right before the debate, Don approached Mike Huberty, who once again was helping us with A/V stuff, and handed him a jumpdrive, asking him to play the video on it as his opening statement. Mike knew something was up, and already had the original video cued up and ready to go, so he just played that. Afterward, Mike handed me the jumpdrive and explained what happened. The evidence sat in my pocket over the hectic weekend, but when it was all over, I popped the drive into my laptop to see what Don had intended to swap his ringer with. And it was…the exact same video, uncensored. It looked like Don’s secret plan was to try to rattle Mark with colorful fucking language.

The debate itself went well, I thought. After the strange video open, Mark and Don were both well-spoken, interesting, and followed David’s format, ceding to his gavel when time was up. After answering questions submitted by the audience, they shook hands and parted ways.

But you can make the determination of who had a better argument for yourself. Here’s an audio recording of the entire debate. It starts right after the two debaters were introduced: Tea‘s Weird Week Special: The Roswell Debate, Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, 2016 (podbean.com)

The Roswell Debate concludes: Mark O’ Connell (left) shakes hands with Donald Schmitt. Debate moderator David Henning is in the middle. Photo by Wendy Schreier Photography.

It took me 5 years to write about this, I think, because I needed some distance from it. Personally, 2016 was a pretty bad, painful year for me. The whole conference was stressful, and trying to negotiate the Roswell Debate was part of that stress. I’m having a really good year in 2021, so I think that now I can reflect. Here’s my thoughts on the Roswell Debate years later…what a goddamn strange thing that was, from beginning to end! But I’m so glad it happened. It was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a debate between two guys who have made really interesting writing careers related to the topic of UFOs, so thank you Don and Mark for participating, and to David for answering my weird invitation to moderate. I will always remember it, fondly now, as a wild and crazy chapter of my life.

Post-script: Mark O’Connell’s book, The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs came out in 2017. Donald Schmitt’s latest title in Roswell: The Ultimate Cold Case (co-authored with Thomas J. Carey).

The Milwaukee Paranormal Conference is happening Sept. 24-26 at various locations. There are no debates planned this year. More info can be found here: Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Returns Sept. 24-26, 2021 | Milwaukee Paranormal Conference (milwaukeeparacon.com)

The Tea’s Weird Week podcast returns with Season 3 next week! We’re kicking things off with an interview with Lyle Blackburn– author, musician, lecturer and narrator of the new documentary Skinwalker: Howl of the Rougarou.

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Check out my latest books:

American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)

Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)


Tea’s Weird Week: My Top 5 Strange Places

For the Tea’s Weird Week podcast this week, I met up with and interviewed Jenny Sanchez, a travel writer and creator of the Long Days Travel website. She’s been all over the world to check out cool and unusual places and it got me to thinking about the strangest places I’ve been to. There’s a lot, but I picked out what I think are the top 5. Please note that “strange” doesn’t necessarily mean awesome and good or creepy and bad… just strange.

(1.) The Outpost (undisclosed location in Pahrump, Nevada)

My book American Madness follows the life of Richard McCaslin aka the Phantom Patriot, a costumed, conspiracy believing commando. After serving prison time and parole, Richard eventually settled down and bought a home in Pahrump, Nevada. As I describe in a chapter of American Madness titled “Where the Heck is Pahrump?” the small desert town is sort of a magnet for odd characters– Art Bell, original host of Coast-to-Coast AM, lived there, as well as other famous eccentrics.

Richard found a good deal on a house, with one of the selling points being the large Quonset hut on the property, which he visualized as a low budget superhero headquarters/ training facility/ filming set/ Phantom Patriot museum that he named “the Outpost.” I visited the Outpost twice– I traveled to Pahrump in 2015, where we filmed an episode of his webshow, Phantom Patriot Retro Cinema (ep 02, “Assault on Area 51”) and I spent the weekend at his house in his guest bedroom. We also made a day trip to film near Area 51 and the Li’l Ale’ E’ Inn. That was the last time I saw Richard alive.

After Richard died, I returned to the Outpost in November 2019 to join a few of Richard’s friends and neighbors who gathered there to have a memorial and spread his ashes on the property. Just thinking about the whole story– meeting Richard, befriending him, visiting Pahrump and having a stressful filming day out in the desert, learning of his death– all of it is the strangest story I’ve experienced, mainly because I was a part of the story, too. It’s something I’ll never forget.

A photo I took of Richard’s Phantom Patriot costume display in the Outpost, 2015.

(2.) International Cryptozoology Museum (Portland, Maine)

My second book was titled Monster Hunters and it took me to all sorts of strange places– Bobby Mackey’s Music World (a haunted honky tonk), the Skunk Ape Research Center in Florida, the International UFO Congress conference in Arizona, Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, a Bigfoot expedition in Michigan, and more– so it’s hard to pick the best one for this list, but one of my strange and favorite visits was to the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine in 2013, I visited on my birthday that year. The museum is curated by Loren Coleman, prolific author and one of the world’s leading and most well-known cryptozoologists. The museum is such a great collection of Sasquatch footprint casts, models of cryptids, rare documents, art, and other interesting items related to the study of unknown creatures. Since my visit, the museum has moved to a new location– time to make a trip to Maine sometime soon!

Website: cryptozoologymuseum.com

Me (left) and Loren Coleman at the International Cryptozoology Museum, 2013.

(3.) The House on the Rock (Spring Green, Wisconsin)

I was reminded of just how strange this place is over the 4th of July weekend. I met my family in Spring Green, where they were having a holiday weekend, to take a trip through the wild fever dream that is the House on the Rock. I can’t really think of anything that compares to this– it is just one huge room after another filled with mind-boggling sights– a giant whale fighting a squid, the world’s largest carousel, which is going just a little too fast and has an automatic band with thumping bass drums adding to the mania– collections of weird guns and circus miniatures and so much more. When I interviewed Jenny Sanchez, it was also the first place she brought up for unusual destinations, she called the House, “the Disneyland of the unusual.”

I’ve been especially wanting to return since reading/ seeing it in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I wrote about the House on the Rock in brief in the “Legendary Places” chapter of my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore.

Website: www.thehouseontherock.com

Just one of the many wild scenes in the House on the Rock. Taken July 4, 2021.

(4.) Survival Condos (undisclosed location in Kansas)

While working on my book Apocalypse Any Day Now, I arranged a tour of the Survival Condos, a state of the art underground bunker built in an old Atlas missile silo. Me and my friend Paul drove out there and spent about 3 hours checking the place out with building developer Larry Hall. The condos not only include the living units but a swimming pool, recreation areas, school, gym, a small grocery store, and a movie theater 14 floors underground. I wrote a chapter about the experience titled “Doomsday Bunkers of the Rich and Famous” and did a column/podcast episode revisiting that experience, which you can check out here: Tea’s Weird Week: Doomsday Bunkers of the Rich and Famous (Revisited) | (teakrulos.com)

Outside the Survival Condos blast doors, 2017.

(5.) Wasteland City (Mojave Desert)

Another experience I had while working on Apocalypse Any Day Now was attending Wasteland Weekend, which is a sort of Mad Max-Burning Man of the Damned-post-Apocalyptic festival. “Wasteland City” assembles in the Mojave Desert outside of California City for the week and the junk city includes its own FM radio station, post office, a Thunderdome for cage fighting, marketplace, casino, night clubs, and much more. It is a place that only appears for the duration of the 4-5 days of Wasteland Weekend, which takes place in late September. There are hundreds of Mad Max style cars and thousands dressed in post-Apocalyptic style garb. I even found work there writing short articles for the daily newsletter, The Wastelander, under my Wasteland name, Krulos the Terrible. I had such a fun time getting drinks at the Atomic Cafe and then wandering around Wasteland at night and checking stuff out. I definitely want to return– it’s not likely I will this year, but I’d like to make it a 2022 goal.

Website: www.wastelandweekend.com

Cool car on the grounds of Wasteland City at Wasteland Weekend, 2017.

Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep08, Long Days and Weird Weeks: I meet up with Jenny Sanchez, a travel writer who seeks out unique and unusual places to visit, which she documents on her site, Long Days Travel. We talked about strange destinations, bucket list, and travel tips. 

In the news segment, me and Heidi talk about another appearance by the Moorish Sovereign Citizens, the 2014 Slenderman case, the three UFO capitals of Wisconsin, and more. Plus trivia with Miss Information and we bring it all back home by closing with a tribute to Milwaukee, “Good Land,” by The MilBillies

Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep08: Long Days, Weird Weeks (podbean.com)
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Tea’s Weird Week: The Conjuring: 1992 Sally Jessy Rafaël Edition

I see there’s a new Conjuring movie out, the latest addition to the “Conjuring-verse” starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as “demonologists” Ed and Lorraine Warren. Oh Hollywood, you old devil.

Before I delve more into that, let’s revisit the “Trash TV” era of daytime tabloid talk shows. In the 80s and 90s, shows like Geraldo (1987-1998), Donahue (1970-1996), The Jenny Jones Show (1991-2003), The Jerry Springer Show (1991-2018), Maury (1991-present), and The Sally Jesse Rafaël Show (1983-2002) and others were all in competition with each other.

While cruising around Google, I found an episode of The Sally Jesse Rafaël Show with Ed and Lorraine Warren as guests from 1992 and it is just hog wild. In 1992 all of the shows I listed were on daytime TV and if you wanted to grab those ratings, you best dump the idle chit chat and get down and dirty– scream at a Satanist, get your nose broken by a white supremacist, send bratty teens to boot camp, break someone’s heart or reveal that they are “not the father.”

The Warrens fit right in to this environment. In the Conjuring movies the Warrens are depicted as beautiful people that are courageous warriors fighting demons, but there are quite a lot of accounts that suggest otherwise. They’ve been accused of being grifters who fabricate, exaggerate, and exploit to sell books, movies based on their appearances, and get paid appearances. They were experts of making a mountain out of a molehill, and as such were perfect Trash TV guests.

The Warrens 1992 appearance on Sally Jessy Rafaël’s show tied in with the release of a book titled In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting, which was turned in the pre-Conjuring-verse film The Haunting in Connecticut. The book is listed as being authored by the Warrens, the Snedekers (Al and Carmen), and another person I’ll talk more about in a minute. The Snedekers claim that in 1986, they moved into a home that was a former funeral home in Southington, Connecticut. The Snedekers say that their entire family witnessed supernatural events and the parents said they were sexually assaulted by ghosts or demons (incubus/succubus). They called in the Warrens, who stayed for 9 weeks or so, culminating with an exorcism that cleared the evil forces out. The case was also featured on shows like A Haunting and Paranormal Witness.

The Warrens (and the Snedekers) were not writers. The Warrens would hand notes to an author, usually a burgeoning horror novelist, so they could write a dramatic account of what happened. In the case of the Snedeker book, the Warrens hired then 29-year-old horror author Ray Garton. Garton was sent to interview the Snedekers and he says the story immediately began to fall apart.

In an interview, Garton says:

“When I found that the Snedekers couldn’t keep their individual stories straight, I went to Ed Warren and explained the problem. “They’re crazy,” he said. “All the people who come to us are crazy, that’s why they come to us. Just use what you can and make the rest up. You write scary books, right? Well, make it up and make it scary. That’s why we hired you.”

Yikes. Garton also says in the interview that “the family was a mess, but their problems were not supernatural and they weren’t going to get the kind of help they needed from the Warrens,” and that he never met the son, who much of the story revolved around. “I was allowed to talk to him briefly on the phone, but as soon as he started telling me that the things he ‘saw’ in the house went away after he’d been medicated, Carmen abruptly ended the conversation,” Garton says. The Warrens also said they had a videotape of supernatural activity– which Garton never saw because the Warrens said they lost it.

Garton finished the book, but guilt about fabricating the story led him to later speak out in several interviews. He called the book “the low point of my career.” And he says he’s not the only writer with this experience. From the same interview:

“Since writing the book, I’ve learned a lot that leaves no doubt in my mind about the fraudulence of the Warrens and the Snedekers — not that I had much doubt, anyway. I’ve talked to other writers who’ve been hired to write books for the Warrens — always horror writers, like myself — and their experiences with the Warrens have been almost identical to my own.”

With all this in mind, here is the 1992 episode of The Sally Jessy Rafaël Show titled “I Was Raped by a Ghost.” I included some notes on the program (but not on the incredible 90s fashion). A content warning, as the title implies, there is talk of alleged sexual assault by demons. Here is video of the entire episode:

0:15: Yes, the actual title for this episode was “I Was Raped by a Ghost.” Screen captions explain guests with phrases like: “Al SAYS HE WAS SODOMIZED BY A GHOST” and Al & Carmen SAY THEY WERE SEXUALLY MOLESTED BY A GHOST.

8:40: Sally Jesse: “In order to fully understand, we want you to show us what happened. We have a bed here today…” uh WHUT.

12:22: Al: “Carmen, I think I was just sodomized by this demon.”

12:40: Carmen imitates demon laughing as it takes pleasure sodomizing her, sounds like Count Chocula.

20:00: Carmen: “One night I ran down the street with Kelly, being sodomized the whole way.” I’m starting to think the Snedekers maybe just had a bad case of hemorrhoids.

21:43: Richard and other neighbors: NOT IMPRESSED, OVER IT.

28:27: This woman went on to be the most frequent poster in your neighborhood-orientated Facebook group (and also the butt of reoccurring jokes in that group).

31:54: Here’s Ed and Lorraine, promoting the book I mentioned, In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting. Sally refers to them as “ghostbusters.” Ed’s opening line is “We feel through our investigation that necrophilia, abuse of the corpses occurred at the home. Not necessarily by the undertakers, it could be anyone that went in there.” Dude, what?! He doesn’t offer any proof that would back up his pretty bold claim that the neighborhood’s dearly departed were being buggered, but I would guess the source was a psychic vision by Lorraine.

33:01: Neighbors: YEAH RIGHT. Also, weird green screen of the Snedeker House behind them. Just looks weird.

34:38: And if you want to know where the party is, this guy knows.

35:40: “If you ask the gentleman sitting right over there.” Uh yeah, that gentleman might be biased– that’s the Warren’s nephew and heir apparent John Zaffis, who went on to star in the reality show Haunted Collector.

38:58: They gave Joe Nickell of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry about 3 minutes, most of it Ed shouting over him. You might think it strange that a guy who loves weird stuff and hosts a Milwaukee Paranormal Conference and leads ghost tours would not like a skeptic, but that’s not true. Nickell is a great research journalist and I’m a fan of that. He’s got good information that Warrens are liars and that’s why Ed is trying to yell over him.

41:53: Carmen: “Ghosts have no gender, I don’t think. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe they have a gender.” That might be true, but they def got something they can stick in your butt.

42:16: Sally: “The exorcism apparently worked,” on hearing that the Snedekers were no longer being haunted.

Well, there you go, I think we all learned a valuable lesson here…that demonic hauntings can PAY BIG. The Haunting in Connecticut movie made over $77 million at the box office, The Conjuring made $318 million (one of the most profitable horror films of all time) and spawned 6 sequels and spin-offs. Hey, I get it– I’ve seen maybe 4 out of 7 of these movies, and I enjoyed them– just ignore that “based on a true story” bullshit claim at the beginning of the movie.

Tea’s Weird Week Season 2 Episode 4, Thanatochemistry: My co-host Heidi Erickson interviews death professional Kelly Teague about thanatochemistry, green funerals, and the Death Cafe, Tea and Heidi talk about the upcoming Midwest Haunters Convention and weird news about squids in space, mathematical bees, watermelon crushin’ record, a strange drone attack, and the classic 2004 case of Marvin Heemeyer and his Killdozer. Plus trivia from Miss Information, original music by Android138 and we close out with a fiery track from Queen Tut, “Matador.”
Listen here! Tea’s Weird Week S2 ep04: Thanatochemistry (podbean.com)

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Check out my latest books:

American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)

Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)