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Tea’s Weird Week: Conspiracy Theory Trainwreck

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Yesterday, a man named Eduardo Moreno, a locomotive engineer from San Pedro, drove a train at full speed toward the Port of Los Angeles. He was holding a safety flare in the train’s cab as the train burst through a series of barriers. Moreno was hoping for an action movie like stunt where the train would jump the rails at the end of the track and fly through the air and crash into the nearby docked USNS Mercy hospital ship, which had recently arrived to help with hospital overflow from the coronavirus pandemic.

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Scene of the trainwreck.

The train skidded out in a gravel lot, about 250 yards from the ship. No one was injured, though there was a “substantial amount of fuel oil” that needed to be cleaned up. Moreno was immediately arrested and charged with “train-wrecking,” which has a sentence of up to 20 years.

Moreno told authorities his goal was to “wake people up,” and said “you only get this chance once. The whole world is watching. I had to. People don’t know what’s going on here. Now they will.” It’s not known yet exactly what Moreno was hoping to wake people up to, other than he believed the Mercy was part of a plot for a “government takeover.” Conspiracy theories about COVID-19 are thick and heavy and often revolve around the virus being a bio-weapon or a hoax, designed to implement a Deep State coup followed by martial law.

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The Mercy in the Port of Los Angeles

This story is familiar to me. I have a new book coming out in August titled American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (Feral House). American Madness tells the story of a man named Richard McCaslin, who styled himself as a conspiracy commando and called himself the Phantom Patriot. Heavily influenced by Alex Jones (of InfoWars), Richard raided a secret society retreat called the Bohemian Grove in 2002, where he was arrested. He was hoping to “wake people up” to the alleged human sacrifices going on there. My book tells his story, but it also follows a pattern. Richard was the first one who took drastic action after listening to the words of Alex Jones (and others of his ilk) but not the last.

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Richard McCaslin in his Phantom Patriot costume.

Some other conspiracy theorists who have snapped include Byron Williams, aka the I-580 Shooter, who had a shoot out with the California Highway Patrol after he was pulled over on his way to shoot up charities associated with liberal boogeyman George Soros in 2010. Oscar Ortega pulled up to the White House in 2011 and fired shots at it after seeing an Alex Jones documentary titled The Obama Deception. Jared and Amanda Miller, InfoWars fans, killed three people and themselves in a Las Vegas shooting spree.

In 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch, armed himself and raided a Washington DC pizzeria named Comet Ping Pong. Like McCaslin and Moreno, Welch was hoping to “wake people up” to a Democrats child sex trafficking ring being run out of the restaurant’s basement. That same year, two Georgia men named Michael Mancil and James Dryden Jr. were arrested in a plot to drive to Alaska and sabotage the HAARP facility, based on a conspiracy that says it’s a government brainwashing facility.

Was Moreno inspired to drive his crazy train by Alex Jones? We don’t know yet. But I doubt he came up with this theory out of the blue. Someone put the idea in his ear and I don’t think it was Rachel Maddow or Anderson Cooper. Like a bad penny, InfoWars is the one who usually shows up in these cases.

Source: “Man charged with intentionally derailing train near hospital ship Mercy over coronavirus concerns,” Los Angeles Times

Update, April 4: Moreno has been denied bail and will be arraigned May 7. It looks like a probable influence on him was QAnon, who have been spreading conspiracies about the Mercy. QAnon is saying the Mercy will be shipping COVID-19 patients to Guantanamo Bay as well as other theories that the disease is a bio-weapon designed by China and/or Bill Gates to discredit Trump. But they’ve also said the virus is a hoax to implement martial law. Let’s not forget that about two dozen of these people have campaigns running for Congress this year: https://teakrulos.com/2020/02/13/teas-weird-week-there-are-two-dozen-members-of-qanon-running-for-congress/

Source: “Coronavirus conspiracy theorists are too nuts even for a zombie-apocalypse movie scenario,” Daily Kos

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My upcoming book American Madness features a journey through conspiracy culture, including QAnon. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: CLICK HERE

Follow me on:
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“Journalist Tea Krulos has made a curious and enlightening career out of examining groups of people with odd beliefs.” — Skeptical Inquirer


Oh yeah, and don’t forget that our president is a conspiracy theorist! This week’s #TrumpConspiracyCounter 2020 (now at 177 clicks) column talks about Trump’s theory that there is a face mask black market. Read it here:
https://teakrulos.com/2020/04/01/trumpconspiracycounter-april-1/


This Saturday have some social distancing quarantine fun and play Tea’s Weird Week Trivia! You can win copies of my book, books from my library, and goofy fun prizes like bigfoot socks, shark hologram bookmarks, and more. It’s at 5pm central via Facebook Live video: www.facebook.com/theTeaKrulos 

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Tea’s Weird Week: Notes From the Quarantine, Part 1

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What a time– I hope everyone is doing ok and hanging in there. A majority of my friends are artists, musicians, writers, teachers, small business owners, service industry workers or some combination thereof– all hit hard by the COVID-19 quarantine that has shut down daily life as we know it. People are stuck at home, worrying about making ends meet. I’ve also seen some inspiring acts of people caring for each other and supporting each other as a community.

I don’t have anything profound to say other than I’m wishing you all well. This is a crazy crazy time but I know that readers of Tea’s Weird Week are creative and resourceful and we’ll make it through. For this column, I just want to share some stuff I’ve been into the last few days.

Listening:

–I saw this shared somewhere, and this is my favorite new site: Radio Garden. It allows you to drag a cursor around a globe and click on livestreams of radio stations around the world. Listen to broadcasts in Kalamazoo or Amsterdam or Cape Town. I don’t know, there’s just something nice about hearing that other people are out there in the world and hear what they’re currently talking about and rocking out to.

–Feral House (publisher of my upcoming book American Madness) did a podcast episode interviewing Aton Edwards of director of the International Prepardness Network. Insightful with good tips. Listen here: https://feralhouse.podbean.com/e/special-episode-march-14-2020-preparedness-now-pandemic-prep-w-aton-edwards/

–I’ve been listening to the daily CNN podcast Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction. It’s a short listen with episodes 7-15 minutes in length. Great to listen to while during tasks around the house. If you’ve followed this column you know there is a metric shit ton of misinfo out there, so a dose of factual reporting feels great.

Watching:

I think it’s really cool that everyone from the Dropkick Murphys to the Paris Opera are offering free streaming performances. Lots more of these are popping up, so do some online searching for your favorite artists/ genres and I’m sure you’ll find something. I watched the Murphs live in Boston and enjoyed it. It’s not different than concert video footage, but there was a little bit of excitement that they were live, doing it for their fans, who were watching live with you around the world.

Other virtual events include movie watch parties via Facebook and other platforms and having an online happy hour on-nomi (Japanese: “online drinking”) party on video conferencing sites like Zoom. My friends have been doing this and I can’t wait to join in.

Another way of taking a look at the world while stuck at home is taking a virtual tour of museums. I haven’t checked these out yet, but I will be next week. I’m planning on deliberatly scheduling them like I would normally do something (like write “check out the Lourve, 5pm Tuesday” on my calendar.)

Mental Floss has a listicle of 12 online museum tours here: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/75809/12-world-class-museums-you-can-visit-online

Writing:

This might be a shocker, but I didn’t get into writing to be rich or famous. It’s something I love to do and it’s therapeutic for me. It is sometimes all I got. This is a good time for you to try it out and work on your writing ideas, even if it’s something that never gets published. On Friday the 13th I started a “Plague Diary” in an empty notebook I had stashed away in a desk drawer. I haven’t done much journaling in life (usually too busy chasing someone else’s story) but I thought now was a good time to spend some time each day writing down some of my emotions, thoughts, and anything else that crosses my mind– I had a strange dream that my grandfather was still alive and hosting a quarantine party, for example.

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This journaling might lead to something (I’ll probably share some excerpts from the journal in this column in the future), or we might all hit the sunny streets when this is all over and it’ll be forgotten. But it might be of interest to look at this 10, 20 years from now and remember the COVID-19 days of 2020. Writing is my way of making sense of things. For you, it might be creating art or music. I hope you are not spending all of your time worrying and have something to like this to offer some balance.

Reading:

It’s a good time to catch up on your reading list. I’ve got a stack of books I’m cruising through. I also read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” Pandemic dystopia reading probably isn’t for everyone at this time, but I like to take a deep dive into things so I’ll be reading more stuff along these lines.

My friends at Lion’s Tooth are doing an online fundraiser toward getting a brick and mortar location and they’re offering pledge levels for receiving a subscription package of cool zines and books. In light of the quarantine, they’re offering to send off your first subscription package right away. I can’t think of anything better than a surprise package of good reading material right now. Check out their Indiegogo for more info here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-milwaukee-s-newest-bookstore#/

Here’s links to two of my Tea’s Weird Week reading lists, all titles on them recommended:

Fall Reading List / Winter Reading List (I’m working on a Spring one now).

Of course, I would be poor at self-promotion if I didn’t plug my own books for quarantine reading. I’ve lost some work so buying a book (or buying me a coffee: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/TeaKrulos) is very much appreciated. Now is a good time to read Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers which talks about prepping and apocalyptic visions and I also have a collection of the Tea’s Weird Week columns I wrote in 2019 as a Kindle e-book ($1.99/ free on Kindle Unlimited) Tea’s Weird Week: 2019 Review.

Stay tuned because tomorrow I’ll be offering a FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST here at teakrulos.com for copies of my books!

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Conspiracy News

As always, click the highlighted links to see my source material. I’m still following conspiracy theory news (I can’t help it, old habits) and as you can imagine, there is a tidal wave of conspiracy, fear, paranoia, and anger crashing in. (See my last column, “M-M-M-My Corona” for some examples). The COVID-19 shutdown has caused people to snap. Witness the defiant dumbness of Kid Rock, who refused to close his bar or the total Twitter meltdown from former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke Jr., who urged people to defy orders to stay home and tied the pandemic to conspiracy boogeyman George Soros.

I’ve seen a couple puzzling posts floating around saying “Anti-vaxxers sure are quiet right now” and “where is Alex Jones in all this?” Umm– no they are not and believe me, he’s as loud and shrill as ever. Alex Jones, along with televangelist Jim Bakker were both ordered to stop trying to sell phony coronavirus cures. Bakker had a bogus silver solution and Jones made the claim that his special Anti-coronavirus toothpaste “kills the whole SARS-corona virus family at point-blank range.” New punk/metal band name: Alex Jones and the Anti-coronavirus Toothpaste Sham.

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Celebrity gossip columnist turned QAnon theorist Liz Crokin.

I also discovered the craziest coronavirus conspiracy theorist of all time, Liz Crokin. Crokin used to be a celebrity gossip columnist (her specialty was celebrity breakups) until she had some serious medical issues. Afterward, she became known as a feverish Trump supporter and QAnon advocate. QAnon believes that Trump is secretly working on a program called “The Storm” which will round up a Democrat-Satanic-Pedophile ring. Her recent theories related to the pandemic:

–Coronavirus is a cover story so the military can round up and make mass arrests of the Deep State unnoticed.

–Beloved actor Tom Hanks is an example of this pedophile ring which is why the story leaked that he had COVID-19. (Note: he’s since quickly recovered, so it wasn’t a very good cover story, apparently. But then she said that the virus was real and celebrities like Hanks and Idris Alba were contracting it from drinking adrenochrome.

–She also tweeted “I grow my own cultured mud scrubs in my backyard, but right now it’s probably best to not wash your hands at all- skin mites and oil are all you need to combat this bacteria.” Yick. Thankfully, her Twitter account was suspended.

I think I’ve been on the Internet too long.

Please Clap Dept.: Thank you, Cult of Weird, for including my upcoming book American Madness on this list of “5 Upcoming Weird Books You Can Pre-order Right Now” at: https://www.cultofweird.com/books/upcoming-weird-books-2020/

The #TrumpConsiracyCounter is taking a quarantine break, but will be back next week. 

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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

Follow me on:
Facebook//Twitter//Instagram//YouTube

 

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

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?