My first Tea’s Weird Week column, “Parallax and Cthulhu Power Zones” was published almost a year ago on June 28, 2019. I started the column because I wanted to connect with readers, promote projects I’m working on (mostly books I’m writing), write about topics I’m interested in (some of which might be featured in future books), and to have a small weekly writing deadline.
In that first column I wrote a year ago, I talked about a book I had recently read (Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea by Christine Garwood) while finishing up some research on my upcoming book, American Madness. I also discussed how I had just learned about “Cthulhu Power Zones” (I’ll let you read the column on that one). Since then, I’ve written the column weekly (minus a couple weeks off in December for the holidays). Some of the topics have included ghost stories, Real Life-Superheroes, lots on conspiracy theory, quarantine journals, Internet hoaxes, CIA UFO files, as well as an occasional life reflection.
I collected all the columns I wrote in 2019 into an e-book: Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review which you can get for the low, low cost of $1.99 (or free on Kindle Unlimited): CLICK HERE
Here are my 5 favorite or most noteworthy columns from the last 12 months:
1.) Best working theory: “A Theory About Vampires, Zombies, Killer Clowns…and Donald J. Trump” (Sept. 5, 2019). A brief examination of politics and horror movies, this column got a nice boost when it was reprinted (in a slightly different form) in Fortean Times, the best magazine dedicated to all weird things.
2.) Scariest shit: “There are Two Dozen Members of QAnon Running for Congress” (Feb. 13, 2020). QAnon has been running candidates across several states. In February the number totaled about 24, but I’m sad to say that number has doubled. This column got a lot of reads and I followed up in another column “Trump Inspired QAnon Followers, Proud Boys, Gun Nuts, Racists, all Have 2020 Campaigns” (May 8, 2020).
3.) Fun stuff: “9 Music Conspiracies and Urban Legends”(Oct.10, 2019) I love hearing about music/Hollywood urban legends and talked about the classics in this column and a sequel: “Now That’s What I Call Music Conspiracy Vol.2” (Nov. 8, 2019). A spin-off, about the conspiracy theory genre of flat earth hip hop (or “flat hop”) “The Top 7 Flattest of the Flat Earth Hip Hop Songs” (Feb. 6, 2020) totally bombed though. “I watched like one minute before I had to turn it off,” one of my friends wrote, after watching one of the presented music videos. “I couldn’t get past the headline,” wrote another. Well, excuuuuuuuze me for my “flatsmacking!” 😉
4.) Most read/ second best working theory: “I got my own conspiracy theory, which is that the world is becoming 24 times more batshit crazy every day” (April 9, 2020). This column had the most views, including quite a few from across Europe. It featured bits on the QAnon “mole children” theory, 5G towers being burned over conspiracy theories, and a bit on the Wisconsin elections. This was during peak pandemic boredom, or maybe lots of people were googling “batshit crazy.”
5.) Tie between two columns: I really loved “Ask Tea Anything (Pandemic Edition)” (April 23, 2020), I think because I was lonely during the pandemic, so it was nice to interact with people even if it was just answering questions in a column. I also really loved the concept for “Freak Out Your Next Zoom Call With These Conspiracy Inspired Backgrounds” (June 12, 2020) where I just created some Zoom backgrounds based on well known conspiracy sites, like this one from Area 51:
Thank you for reading over the last year. Who knows what other weird stuff 2020 is going to throw at us (nervous laughter)– but I look forward to writing it up!
Next week: I’m taking a trip for 4th of July weekend, so I’ll be reporting live from the road.
It’s on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52486773-american-madness
“Tea Krulos has forged a fascinating collection of work by immersing himself in various sub-cultures that exist on the fringes of society.” —Cult of Weird
The third round of Tea’s Weird Week Trivia happened this last Saturday. Congrats to Tom and Andrew who each won a round and Jessica who won two.
I’ll be back this Saturday, April 18 with four more rounds– Andrew won the chance to pick a trivia topic and he chose “Hollywood urban legends” and other categories include Philip K. Dick, Zombies, and “Puppets that ain’t for kids.” Prizes will include books (authored by myself and others) and other weird swag. Tune in this Saturday, 5pm (central), on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/theTeaKrulos
Here’s the questions from last week if you didn’t get a chance to play. You can get a feel for the trivia and host your own trivia session with your roommate. Answer key is way at the bottom of the post. For this week, I am encouraging that trivia players to check out Lion’s Tooth, who have a great book/zine/comic subscription and are doing an Indiegogo for a brick and mortar store here:
Warm-up: Conspiracies in the News
Which of the following conspiracy news happened in the last two weeks?
A. A man derailed a train in LA trying to hit a hospital ship he believed was part of a conspiracy.
B. People believing 5G internet causes coronavirus destroyed at least 20 5G towers around the UK.
C. QAnon followers began talking about a theory that coronavirus is a cover up to rescue “mole children” living in tunnels under Central Park.
D. All of the above dammit.
Paranormal Reality TV Personalities
- This show host often searches for paranormal or cryptozoology topics. He came to Milwaukee to search for a treasure hidden in Lake Park. He ditched the search after a thunderstorm rolled in. He also searched for a similar treasure in Florida and helped a family find one in New Jersey. Points for name of host and show.
- The daughter of this pioneering ghost hunter has a show that premiered in October that reopens her father’s case files. A point for the name of the father and the show.
- Ghost Hunters had three official spin offs, a point for each one.
- This new show explores a notoriously weird and frightening ranch in Utah. What’s the name of the ranch?
- The very first episode of Ghost Adventures took Zak Bagans and company to which location?
A. Transallegheny Lunatic Asylum
B. Bobby Mackey’s Music World
C. Winchester Mystery House
D. Ohio State Reformatory
- At the end of March, a Dutch museum closed because of coronavirus was broken into. A painting titled “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884” was stolen. Which Dutch painter was the artist?
- In 2014 Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond left a performance when he was tazed and his 300 year old instrument was stolen. Bonus point if you guess anywhere of the price range of how much it’s worth.
- The largest art heist of all time took place in 1990. The two watchmen were duct-taped to chairs as thieves stole 13 works of art including ones by Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet. The case remains unsolved. Which city did it happen in?
B. New York
- In 1994 thieves stole a painting in 50 seconds from a museum in Oslo, Norway. The 1893 painting is considered to be the most famous piece of art created by a Norwegian. Another version of the painting was stolen in 2004. A point for the artist and painting name.
- The Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 from the Louvre by an Italian man who kept it hidden in his apartment for 2 years. What did he say his motivation was:
A. He said the Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile made him believe that they were soul mates.
B. He believed the painting depicted his mother in a past life.
C. He believed it was his patriotic duty to return the painting to Italy.
D. He wanted to sell it to the Pope
1.) This new theory suggests that Jimi Hendrix didn’t die but changed identities and careers and became which actor?
2.) This classic story says that which blues singer got his guitar playing abilities by selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads?
3.) Paul is Dead is the theory that Paul McCartney died in a car crash and was replaced by a lookalike. Theorists say clues can be found on the front and back cover of which album? Bonus point for what year it came out.
4.) This singer that likes to party is accused of being a franchise of look alikes that perform different shows. Andrew WK
5.) This urban legend says that Marilyn Manson was a child actor on which show?
Dystopian Novel or White House Pandemic Press Conference?
This round sponsored by the Apocalypse Blog Book Club
Identify if this quote is from a novel (and a bonus point if you name the novel) or from Trump at a coronavirus press conference.
1.) “My mother once told me that no woman is naked when she comes equipped with a bad mood and a steady glare.”
2.) “Stay inside and let’s win this and let’s get our country as soon as we can. I think it’s going to be sooner than people think. Things are going really well.”
3.) “Better never means better for everyone..it always means worse for some.”
4.) “That’s all anybody can do right now. Live. Hold out. Survive. I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times.”
5.) “There will be a lot of death, unfortunately, but a lot less death than if this wasn’t done. But there will be death.
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
“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
Warm up: D. All of the above dammit. Paranormal Personalities: 1. Josh Gates/ Expedition Unknown 2. Hans Holzer/ The Holzer Files 3. Ghost Hunters International, Ghost Hunters Academy, UFO Hunters. 4. Skinwalker Ranch 5. B. Bobby Mackey’s Music World
Art Heists: 1. Vincent Van Gogh 2. Stradivarius violin valued at 5 to 6 million dollars 3. C. Boston 4. Edvard Munch, The Scream 5. C. He believed it was his patriotic duty to return the painting to Italy.
Urban Legends: 1. Morgan Freeman 2. Robert Johnson 3. Abbey Road, 1969 4. Andrew WK 5. The Wonder Years.
Dystopian Novel or White House Pandemic Press Conference? 1. Feed, Mira Grant 2. Trump 3. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood 4. Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler 5. Trump.
I thought of the idea for this column when I saw a ridiculous (but kinda awesome) theory circulating on Facebook the other day that Jimi Hendrix and Morgan Freeman are one and the same. I’m wrapping up a book on conspiracy culture titled American Madness, which doesn’t delve too much into music theories, although there is one about Les Claypool of Primus (no, sadly it doesn’t involve playing “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” backwards). Maybe I’ll write more in-depth on all this someday, but meanwhile here’s a list of some conspiracy theories and urban legends involving musicians.
(1) Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire and became Morgan Freeman.
As I mentioned, this story kicked off the idea for this week’s column (I added the flaming guitar bit myself as a good conspiracy needs embellishment). The theory suggests that Hendrix faked his death in 1970 and rebranded himself as Academy Award winning actor Freeman. As Snopes notes, the two do have a passing resemblance, but Morgan had already launched his acting career by 1964 while Hendrix was still touring, so we’re going to need to add time/space travel to this theory for it to make sense.
(2) Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil.
This is the most classic music myth I can think of. I’m adding Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson, a biography on the blues musician (from one of my publishers, Chicago Review Press) to my winter reading list (as soon as I get through my fall one). Johnson, the story goes, was a mediocre guitar player until he disappeared from the juke joints he frequented for a period of time. When he returned, his music skills had increased incredibly and the story was that he sold his soul at the crossroads for his new abilities to old Hornhead himself. The stories and Johnson’s songs like “Me and the Devil Blues” and “Hellhound on My Trail” forever gave him a supernatural reputation.
(3) Elvis is alive, baby!
This is the first music conspiracy or legend I was exposed to as a kid, bored and waiting in line at the supermarket and reading the headlines of tabloids. The trashy reports of celebrity affairs had no interest to me, but the sensational tales of Elvis faking his death and being spotted at a 7-11 and numerous other locations did. An American classic– long live the king!
(4) But Paul is dead (and other doppelganger replacements)!
“Paul is dead” is such a beautifully complex conspiracy. There’s so much, so I’ll just try to cruise through the main talking points: Paul McCartney, the theory says, dies in a car crash in 1966. Afraid to lose their fan base, The Beatles and management decided to do the logical thing and replace him with a Paul McCartney doppelganger. But their guilt gnawed at them, so they dropped a number of clues hidden in plain sight in their song lyrics and album cover art, the most heavily dissected being the front and back cover of 1969’s Abbey Road. There’s a run down of the eight pieces of hidden symbolism on the album covers here: https://www.biography.com/news/beatles-abbey-road-album-cover-anniversary
Since then, there have been several other doppelganger theories, including one that says that Miley Cyrus died of an overdose and was replaced by a body double in 2010, that Avril Lavigne was quietly replaced with a clone in 2003, and that Andrew W.K. is actually several people who are franchised out to play the role, maybe in the same way Andy Warhol would have an impersonator show up at art events.
I recommend listening to my friends on See You on the Other Side podcast. They have an episode titled “Avril is Dead: The Strange Case of Pop Culture Doppelgangers” where they discuss Paul, Avril, and Andrew as well as wrestler the Ultimate Warrior and more.
(5) Kurt Cobain was murdered.
This was a conspiracy I watched play out as I was a Nirvana fan and a high schooler when Kurt Cobain killed himself. I found his death shocking and I experienced some sad disbelief. I think some conspiracies form because music is so important to us. When a musician dies before their time we can’t accept the grim reality. They were larger than life, larger than afterlife.
Over the years that followed Cobain’s death, a lot of “evidence” was hodge-podged together to suggest he was murdered, and most often the theories point at Courtney Love as the perpetrator. About six months after Cobain’s 1994 death, I went to see Hole play with Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails at the Riverside Theater. Some asshat was yelling “you killed Kurt!” at Love between songs. People needed to blame his death on someone and she was the convenient villain.
Shock rocker Eldon Hoke aka “El Duce” of The Mentors (and The Screamers), claimed he was hired by Love as the hitman (though he definitely shouldn’t be taken seriously). Two days after shooting an interview for the total crap conspiracy doc Kurt & Courtney, El Duce was found dead on the railroad tracks, decapitated, and with a high alcohol content. Of course this only led to more conspiracies.
(6) The 27 Club.
Kurt was then added to an elite theory of “The 27 Club,” a mystical group of musicians who died at that age, including Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and later Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Because of this there’s some mysticism about the number, a time when musicians are supposedly more vulnerable as they are on the cusp between still being considered young and about to turn a more “adult age.” But of course many great musicians have died at all ages.
(7) Who killed Tupac and Biggie…or are they still alive?
A lot of conspiracies linger because there aren’t satisfactory answers for closure, the JFK assassination being a prime example. Rap rivals Tupac Shakur and the Notorious BIG were murdered in 1996 and 1997, respectively, with both cases being unsolved and open. The list of alleged suspects who participated in the killings include Suge Knight, Puff Daddy, the LAPD, the FBI, and the Illuminati. Like Elvis, there are also legends that both rappers faked death, though most are typically about Tupac. You can find claims of people allegedly spotting Tupac in Cuba, Malaysia, and Somalia, among other places.
(8) Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando fled New York in a rental car road trip after 9/11.
This is a good story, but has never been proven. The tall tale says that Michael Jackson was performing in New York the week of the 9/11 attacks (that is true) and that his guests there for the show included Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando (also true). After the 9/11 attacks, a panicked Jackson rented a car and the three celebrities begin a madcap road trip toward LA. They got as far as Ohio (stopping frequently at KFCs to fuel Brando with fried chicken), before ditching the car for a private jet to California. This story only emerged in 2011, conveniently after all three of the alleged participants had died. Is the story true? Probably not. A former assistant to Taylor says she stayed for several days in New York after the attack. Another source says Jackson and entourage bunked in New Jersey before charting a private plane to head West.
Zadie Smith wrote a great short fiction based on this urban legend for the New Yorker titled “Escape from New York.”
(9) In the Air Tonight
I’m including this one because this is a myth I believed myself for many years. I accepted the story I heard about Phil Collin’s famous hit “In the Air Tonight.” I thought the song was about, as Eminem described it “that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drowning/ but didn’t then Phil saw it all/ then at a show he found him” Turns out the song isn’t about a death by drowning or any of that, but just Phil expressing his feels about a divorce he was going through.
Yawwwwwn dude. Conspiracy is sometimes way more interesting than reality.
There are many more ones I’m missing– the one about Ace of Base being white supremacists and some interesting rumors about Marilyn Manson, so I got a feeling someday this column will get a sequel.
If you’re in the midwest, tickets for Milwaukee Krampusnacht are on sale now. It’s an awesomely creepy and cool event. More info: www.milwaukeeparacon.com/krampus
My latest book is Apocalypse Any Day Now, available here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/ApocalypseAnyDayNow