I was really hoping to be moving toward writing about Halloweeny shit instead of conspiracy shit this week, but NO. Let me rephrase that: NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Trump had a town hall thing last night (he refused a virtual debate, leading to rival Trump and Biden town halls) and I didn’t think he could possibly appear to be more of a dangerous idiot than he did at the last debate, but welcome to 2020 where everything you know is wrong and the hellmouth continues to open! It was a great night for deranged conspiracies and a bad night for…well, the entire planet, really.
QAnon: When asked about QAnon, Trump did his usual “deny but don’t reject” dance. You might recall this from the debate where Trump refused to denounce white supremacy, then gave a perceived shout out to the Proud Boys, then claimed he “didn’t know” who the Proud Boys were. Moderator Savannah Guthrie, of NBC News, explained what QAnon was in a nutshell– the belief in a Democrat satanic pedophile ring (she didn’t mention their idea that Democrats get high on adrenochrome, though) and asked Trump if he would denounce them. The response:
Trump: I know nothing about QAnon.
Guthrie: I just told you.
Trump: You told me, but what you say doesn’t necessarily make it fact, I hate to say that. I know nothing about it, I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard, but I know nothing about it.
Guthrie: They believe it is a satanic cult run by the DNC!
Trump: [rambles about how vicious Antifa is]…I just don’t know about QAnon.
Guthrie: You do know!
Trump: I don’t know!…Let me tell you, what I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that.
Guthrie: Ok, but there’s not a satanic pedophile–
Trump: I know nothing about that
Guthrie: You know nothing about that?!
Trump: No, I have know idea and neither do you know that [sic].
Trump still doesn’t know who QAnon is! Well, he knows they fight pedophilia “very hard.” That’s funny because, as I noted in a previous column Trump said at an August 20th press conference that he didn’t know who QAnon was other than “I understand they like me very much.”
It’s been almost 2 months– you couldn’t get an intern to hop on Google to see what all this bullshit was about? The real answer is that Trump is a liar– he very well knows who QAnon is and a cult devoted to him is appealing to his massive ego.
The “Biden Killed Seal Team 6 Theory”: This week Trump retweeted a QAnon account twice that had posted a baseless theory that the Navy SEAL 6 team mistakenly killed Osama Bin Laden’s body double in 2011 and rather than say “oops,” Obama and Biden had the whole team assassinated to cover up the mistake. Yes, THIS IS FUCKING CRAZY. It led to this beautiful town hall exchange, when Guthrie brought it up:
Trump: That was a retweet. That was an opinion of somebody and that was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves. I don’t take a position.
Guthrie: I don’t get that. You’re the president. You’re not someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.
Thank you, Savannah Guthrie, for doing your job and calling Trump out and not letting him try to steamroll you.
Obamagate/Voter Fraud: Trump mentions his Obamagate theory and talks about voter fraud.
Trump:”When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can and they happen to have my name on it, I’m not happy about it.”
Guthrie: There is in fact no evidence of widespread fraud and you are sowing doubt in our democracy.
When Guthrie added that the FBI director noted their was no evidence of mass voter fraud, Trump replied, “Oh really, then he’s not doing a very good job.”
What else– oh yeah, he refused to answer whether he tested for COVID the day of the debate, he misrepresented a study, saying 85% of people who get COVID were wearing masks (FALSE), said he’s second only to Lincoln in helping African-Americans and on and on blah blah bullshit.
FAKE NEWS! But wait, there’s more! Early this morning, Trump tweeted out a post from the Babylon Bee, a satirical site that’s a wannabe version of The Onion. The post said Twitter had shut down to slow the spread of negative news. “Wow, this has never been done in history. This includes his really bad interview last night,” Trump tweeted.
Well, he’s right– this has never, ever, neverever been done in history. If you are voting for Trump, there is nothing I can say to you, you are too far gone. I just hope you put some serious thought into where your own mind and soul are.
And if you don’t think conspiracy thinking is dangerous, I invite you to read two pieces I wrote this week.
“Richard McCaslin: An Obituary,” is about a person I met who descended into conspiracy theory. As the title suggests, he died. I wrote about him in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness.
“A Militia of Phantom Patriots” discusses how conspiracy theory was a factor in the Wolverine Watchmen militia terrorists and their plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (and possibly Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, as we now know).
My book American Madness is a guide to Conspiracyland (buy it at Bookshop.org or wherever books are sold). Speaking of crazy uncles (I am one, myself!) I talked with the guys on the Strange Uncles podcast about my book to kick off their fourth season. They say: “American Madness is probably one of the best books we’ve read in awhile…highly recommended.” Thanks, Uncles! You can listen here: https://strangeuncles.podbean.com/e/strange-uncles-s4e1-interview-with-american-madness-author-tea-krulos/
Also, I’m doing a virtual event with the fantastic Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago on this Tuesday, October 20 at 7:30pm. I’ll be talking American Madness and doing some conspiracy theory trivia for some cool prizes. It’s free and streaming live on their YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/QuimbysBookstore
Check out the fantastic prizes HERE.
Richard McCaslin died two years ago today. I wrote about his life in detail in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness. I realized he never received an obituary. I wrote one for him here.
RICHARD WILSON MCCASLIN was born to Ned and Elsie McCaslin on June 20, 1964 in Zanesville, Ohio. He was a Marine, Real-Life Superhero, stuntman, activist, and artist. Richard developed a passion for superhero comics when he was a kid and this interest in comic book mythology would shape the direction of his life. Richard was an honors student in high school and after he graduated, he served with the United States Marine Corps from 1982 to 1985, and was honorably discharged.
After he returned home, Richard bounced between Zanesville and wandering the country for several years, looking for a career that would utilize his talents and creative power. His hobbies included illustrating his own comic adventures and designing costumes based off his favorite characters– photos of him in these costumes appeared in comic book letters pages and in the quintessential magazine devoted to comic news, Wizard. In 1987, he attended the Kim Kahana Stunt School in Chatsworth, California, hoping to find a career in stuntwork. Nothing panned out in that field at first, but in 1996 and 97, he got to play one of his childhood heroes, Batman, in a stunt show at Six Flags Astroworld (in Houston).
Around this same time in the late 90s and early 2000s, Richard went through a tough time, losing both his parents and struggling to make connections and a career. He moved to Austin, where he created his own superhero persona, the Phantom Patriot, and moved briefly to Carson City before he stormed a place called the Bohemian Grove in California. He had seen a video created by conspiracy theory peddler Alex Jones (of InfoWars) that suggested a cabal of powerful men were sacrificing people, possibly children, in front of a statue of an owl inside of the retreat.
Richard was arrested at the Bohemian Grove and charged with five felonies. After his raid, Richard was called “crazy” and a “domestic terrorist,” but I’d like to note that he acted on faulty information and believed he would be rescuing people that were in danger. There were multiple times inside the Bohemian Grove that he could have shot someone, but he didn’t. Richard spent about 6 and a half years in prison, where he channeled his creative side by drawing a comic book that included an autobiographical account of his Bohemian Grove raid.
Upon his parole ending in 2011, Richard exercised his free speech rights by conducting peaceful protests, including a tour where he traveled coast-to-coast, protesting and seeing the country through his eyes. He conducted a protest in front of the Bohemian Club (which owns the Bohemian Grove) in downtown San Francisco in 2012. He moved to Las Vegas and then out to Pahrump, Nevada, where he finally settled down in a place he could call home. He lived a quiet life there, working with Las Vegas Motion Pictures to produce videos that showcased his creative talents, and regularly traveled to Las Vegas to protest and, of course, buy comic books.
His videos can be seen on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTSuMTR4SI1AZyEBt8WGIfA
I think it’s fair to say that the people that Richard befriended didn’t agree with or necessarily even understand his views. But no one that met him will forget him, and he made our lives more interesting and gave us plenty to think about. Few people got to see the side of Richard that was a caring, concerned, loyal friend.
In October of 2018 Richard traveled from Pahrump to Washington DC, choosing to take his life in his truck, parked outside of a Freemason temple. He died October 15. A small memorial took place on his property with friends and neighbors in November 2019. I hope Richard has found peace from the things that troubled him in his voyage here on Earth.
Cambria, Wisconsin, population 767, has “no bank, no grocery store and no stoplight,” as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. For big city livin’ like that, you have to drive 25 minutes to Beaver Dam. Being Wisconsin, it does of course have a bar, which is called The Dump.
It’s out here on a property surrounded by cornfields that five domestic terrorists, militia members who called themselves the Wolverine Watchmen, met on July 10-12 to engage in “firearms training and other combat drills,” according to an affidavit by the FBI. They also attempted to built IEDs out of “black powder, balloons, a fuse, and BBs for shrapnel,” but they failed to detonate.
They property owner is a man named Michael H. Jung. His Twitter bio reads:
Belong to both Oath Keepers and III%ers. We are here to honor our countries [sic] Constitution and keep it the law of Our Country. What about you? MAGA Trump Patriot.
Both the groups Jung lists are militias. The Three Percenters get their name from the supposed fact that only 3% of America’s population fought against the British in the Revolutionary War. The Oath Keepers are named after the oath order to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Both groups view themselves as Revolutionaries fighting against a tyrannical government. They fly the “don’t tread on me” Gadsen flag, and the 13-star flag Betsy Ross flag.
The training session in Cambria was for a failed attempt to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who according to one of the Wolverine Watchmen, was a “tyrant bitch.” A couple of the members were identified in pictures from the massive pandemic protests at the Michigan Capitol building in April and May. Hundreds of armed people were there to protest COVID lockdown measures, which they said violated their freedom.
The FBI affidavit reveals that the Wolverine Watchmen had been forming a plan for months to kidnap Governor Whitmer and take her to “a secure location in Wisconsin for ‘trial.'” The location wasn’t identified, but perhaps it was to be Jung’s property in Cambria.
One of the militia’s ideas called for rallying “200 men” to storm the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing to take hostages, including the Governor. In another plan, they plotted to kidnap her from her vacation home and spent time staking it out twice in the last couple months. They planned to blow up a bridge to distract law enforcement and bomb police cars with Molotov cocktails. 13 men involved with the plot were arrested on federal and state charges.
The Wolverine Watchmen were all Trump fans and perceived him to be a fan of them– after all, as the lockdown protests were taking place Trump tweeted out “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” The assembled militias saw that as validation. Trump also often showed his disdain for Governor Whitmer, sometimes refusing to say her name and referring to her as “that woman from Michigan.” Trump tweeted out that in regards to the militias, the Governor should “talk to them, make a deal,” nevermind the fact that some of these protesters were calling for her to be lynched and beheaded.
Here’s another thing about the Wolverine Watchmen: they were conspiracy theorists. Reviewing the Twitter feed of Michael Jung, the property owner in Cambria, we find the full gamut of 2020 conspiracies between February and his last tweet in August 25– lots of posts sharing anti-vaxxer media, a few posts celebrating QAnon (including a video titled “We are Q. The Plan to Save the World.”) as well as posts about 5G (a “direct energy weapon system”), voter fraud, FEMA camps, the fake “plandemic,” and references to Democratic governors being “tyrants.”
Other Wolverine Watchmen posted conspiracy media as well. Eric Molitor posted conspiracy theories related to QAnon, Peter Musico, ranted on YouTube about the “Deep State,” and shared links to Owen Shroyer, an InfoWars host, while Joseph Morrison shared anti-vaxxer theories and also encouraged his Twitter followers to tune into InfoWars, run by conspiracy peddler extremist Alex Jones. And that’s just what we know so far.
Jones and InfoWars often pop up in conspiracy driven plots– in my book American Madness, I detail how the influence of Alex Jones led a man named Richard McCaslin to heavily arm himself and raid a private retreat of powerful men called the Bohemian Grove back in 2002. He believed he would find satanic sacrifices taking place there. McCaslin viewed himself much like the Wolverine Watchmen probably do, not as domestic terrorists, but as patriots (McCaslin even dubbed himself the “Phantom Patriot”), fighting in a Revolutionary War.
The story repeated again in 2016 when a man named Edgar Maddison Welch saw a video on InfoWars about the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which led to his raid on the Washington DC pizzeria Comet Ping Pong. A wave of violence inspired by QAnon beliefs has risen under the Trump administration.
Alex Jones, by the way, denounced McCaslin’s Bohemian Grove raid after it happened, saying that it sounded “crazy,” even though he was the inspiration. That’s a pattern of denial and disassociation he’s followed ever since, and sorry, Wolverine Watchmen, that includes you. On a recent show, Jones said the whole scheme was a “false flag” by the “Deep State.” In his words:
Well, we knew it was coming. I predicted over and over again, the last few months, it’s not a hard prediction, that they’d engage in a provocateur setup or a false flag against Democrat Party officials, to make them look like victims when they launch incredible tyranny.
Trump, the Conspiracy Theorist-in-Chief, is culpable in this. His presidency has normalized conspiracy belief about the pandemic, alleged voter fraud, and civil unrest. He knows the value of misinformation and fear-mongering– that’s his true Art of the Deal.
This has not been the first incident of armed conspiracy theorists on the march recently– last month I wrote a column where I reported on two armed men heading to Kenosha (to potentially shoot protesters) that were arrested at a hotel. They were part of the 417 Second Amendment Militia. An examination of one of their Facebook pages again turned up lots of posts about the “COVID hoax,” voter fraud, and conspiracies about Trump’s favorite enemies. A disturbing report from Minneapolis, meanwhile, has shown that a private security firm is hiring mercenaries to “make sure the Antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites,” though there’s no evidence such a plan exists.
Taking to Twitter to comment on the plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer, Trump once again chose not to condemn right wing extremists, but called out “Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs.”
The real threat to safety of people’s lives, as these cases show, are white supremacists and conspiracy-inspired militia groups like the Wolverine Watchmen. And no matter the results in November, expect to see more plots like this one. If Trump loses, they will consider themselves at war. If he wins, they will be emboldened.
Tea Krulos is the author of American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness.
“Read the FBI affidavit in the militia plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer,” Detroit Free Press
“Residents shocked band of men trained in Cambria for governor kidnapping plot,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“The ‘Wolverine Watchmen’ Accused of Targeting Michigan Guv Spooked Their Neighbors,” Daily Beast
Michael H. Jung Twitter page: https://twitter.com/climer6699 [accessed Oct. 10, 2020]
“Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: Alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Whitmer a ‘false flag’ by the ‘deep state,'” Media Matters for America
I wrote a book! My book American Madness is officially out and it feels great. There’s some release events going on in the next week. This Saturday, September 5, there’s a release party here in the Milwaukee area at the X-Ray Arcade with food, drink, and of course conspiracy. (See Facebook event here). I’m also doing an online event for those who bought my book via Lion’s Tooth Thursday September 10, a conversation with Milwaukee Record’s Matt Wild followed by a Q and A: www.facebook.com/events/367709997570202/
So that means, after many years of work on this project, it’s party time! And in these conspiracy times, have I got a party playlist for you, which I made on Spotify. It follows the themes and moods of the book. A lot are self explanatory and were included because of their conspiracy themes. I included a couple songs created by actual conspiracists– David Neal writes songs in the overlooked genre of JFK assassination theory folk, while the Flat Earth Man writes some honky tonk about the “globe lie” (I bought his CD at a flat earth conference I attended).
Other songs you’ll get when you read the book. A couple songs were inspired by Richard McCaslin, who I wrote about in depth. I included some notes on the track listing below explaining a few of my choices. Crank out the volume and weird out!
American Madness Playlist
“White Rabbit,” Emiliana Torrini (covering Jefferson Airplane)/ the title of the introduction of the book is “The Rabbit Hole.”
“I am the Owl,” Dead Kennedys
“Sunshine Superman,” Donovan/ Richard McCaslin was born in 1964 and this 1966 song includes the line “Superman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothing on me.” Richard loved superhero comics.
“Do the Paranoid Style,” Bad Religion/ the song title is from a 1964 article in Harper’s that talks about conspiracy and politics. You can read it HERE.
“Oswald Didn’t Do It” David Neal
“Phantom Zone” The Alex Jones Prison Planet/ a chapter of my book is titled “Alex Fucking Jones.”
“Phantom Patriot,” Les Claypool/ Claypool read a local news article about Richard and was inspired to write this song. I got a few minutes of phone time with him for a chapter of American Madness.
“Ruiner,” Nine Inch Nails/ popped in my head while I was thinking of Richard’s raid on the Bohemian Grove, detailed in a chapter titled “Burn the Owl.”
“Broken,” Chely Wright/ you’ll see why this is here when you read the “Burn the Owl” chapter
“Somebody’s Watching Me,” Rockwell
“They Live,” B.o.B/ John Carpenter’s 1988 film is often referenced by conspiracy believers.
“I’m Afraid of Americans,” David Bowie
“Unmarked Helicopters,” Soul Coughing
“Person Woman Man Camera TV,” The Gregory Brothers/ nothing more ridiculous or frightening than Trump’s own words.
“Channel Zero,” Canibus/ great song about the Majestic 12!
“No Photographs of Earth,” Flat Earth Man/ Flat Earth Man is the biggest music star amongst the flat earthers, though they have a rich hip hop (or as I call it “flat hop”)– you check it out in a Tea’s Weird Week column HERE.
“Last Plane Out,” Toy Matinee
“Hottie Illuminati,” Sunspot/ great track by Sunspot, who also host the See You on the Other Side podcast– see me talk about American Madness with them HERE.
“Mr. Panicker,” Nineteen Thirteen/ a local Milwaukee group, I just love the mood of this one, makes me think of paranoia and melancholy anger.
“Beware of the Pale Horse,” ILL Bill w/ William Cooper/ this rapper named himself after the infamous conspiracy theorist Bill Cooper and the title is Cooper’s notorious conspiracy Bible. See Mark Jacobson’s excellent book Pale Horse Rider for more on Cooper and his influence on hip-hop.
“Cell Therapy,” Goodie Mob/ reminds me of conspiracy and Richard’s time in prison.
“Aliens Exist,” Blink-182/ music to raid Area 51 to!
“The Future,” Leonard Cohen/ the ultimate track for 2020.
“Perfect Day,” The Constellations/ for some reason made me think of Richard driving through the desert of Nevada, where he lived.
More listening material department: I did an in-depth interview about American Madness with the Failed State Update podcast. To listen, CLICK HERE
For more ways you can support me and my book, please see this entry: “American Madness is Out Now!“
Purchase from Lion’s Tooth for a signed, inscribed copy, a bonus comic zine, Lion’s Tooth swag, a “this machine kills fascists” sharpie from Feral House, and access to in-person and online events with me! Right here: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
And hey, if you read the book and you got suggestions for tracks to add to this list, leave them in the comments below!
What a week! American Madness official release date was Tuesday and it’s been so great to see the book featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as well as an excerpt on Literary Hub. Most exciting of all is seeing people posting pictures of their copies of the book and telling me that they’re starting to read it.
For my column this week I decided to solicit my social media for conspiracy questions. Here’s a few of them. I’ll be doing another “ask me anything” column in a couple months, titled “American Madness–spoilers edition” after people get a chance to read the whole story.
First up, not a question, but a comment I got on Twitter that I want to talk about:
Tea this book foreshadows what we are living in right now and especially applicable to another Phantom Patriot in 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed protesters in Kenosha. –Sleepersound
Yes, Tuesday was an absolutely horrifying night in Kenosha (about 40 miles to the south of where I live, Milwaukee) after a militia member killed two people and severely injured a third. Kyle Rittenhouse, spotted in the front row of a Trump rally in January, thought he was fighting for justice and the American way, much like the main subject of my book, Richard McCaslin (aka the Phantom Patriot) did. McCaslin heavily armed himself and raided a place called the Bohemian Grove in 2002 (but didn’t kill anyone).
Also of note– the leader of the Kenosha Guard (a sort of ad hoc militia that organized an event page encouraging armed citizens to show up in Kenosha) sent the police chief a letter proudly noting that the group had been reported on by InfoWars, Alex Jones’ media site. Jones was an inspiration to McCaslin and several others who have committed violent acts over the years.
Have you ever heard a true ends to the means on the flat earth theory? I’m not a believer in many conspiracy theories–but I can understand why someone would when presented the outcome.–Addo
That’s something I was curious to find out when I attended a flat earth conference last November, which I write about in a chapter of American Madness titled “The War Against Science.” If it had been discovered that the world was flat, why cover it up? Science is always evolving with new data, readjusting when they find a theory to be wrong, so what is the gain in the alleged lie?
Flat Earthers say it’s all because of greed from NASA. They started out wanting to explore space in earnest, but when they discovered the truth, they needed to maintain the lie to get paid. They couldn’t get their massive annual budget ($22.6 billion) for space exploration if there is no space beyond the dome covering the earth. So there you go, follow the money…follow it to the end of the earth.
Any thoughts on the whole “hitler got to Argentina” thing? (Yes, I use a lower-case spelling of his name intentionally)— Shane
Shane, I’ve read about a few Nazi conspiracies– the escape to Argentina in a U-boat, the alleged hidden base in Antarctica, the UFO program. I really like reading classic conspiracy stuff like this and the JFK assassination (even if I don’t believe it). In this case, I think it’s well proven that Hitler died in Germany. One piece of solid evidence was an analysis matching his teeth to those found in the remains in his bunker: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/05/21/hitler-teeth-test-dispels-myths-nazi-leaders-survival/627831002/
What are the main tenants of the Q “movement?”— Samwell
QAnon beliefs are always morphing and spinning new ideas, but the core belief is that an evil cabal of Democrats, Hollywood, the mainstream media, and other liberal villains are secretly running a satanic child sex trafficking ring, engaging in cannibalism, and harvesting adrenochrome from victims to get high on. The believe a secret informant calling themselves “Q” is leaking information on Trump’s secret plan to bring this cabal down, a period of reckoning called “The Storm” which will lead to a “Great Awakening” of the truth. It’s very cult-like in it’s cognitive dissonance.
Other terms to be wary of– the QAnon motto “where we go one, we go all” (wwg1wga) and #SavetheChildren, a hashtag they’ve sadly hijacked, infiltrating the actual problem of sex trafficking with Q nonsense.
Are more groups like QAnon who have been found making up things going to become more commonplace? What do you think would happen to their followers if they were shown who was behind it? –Discordia
Discordia, I’m afraid both parts of this answer are painful. First, yes, I do think QAnon and other groups will continue to grow, especially in this time of madness. A QAnon believer, Marjorie Greene, is most likely going to be elected to Congress and there are a couple other candidates who have a shot. Trump himself said he liked QAnon because “I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.” When that type of legitimacy is given to a group like this, it emboldens them and makes it easier to recruit new members. I think it’ll be easy for similar groups to gain traction.
To the second question, I think that “Q” is most likely a troll or combination of trolls, but sadly even if there was solid evidence of this you could present to Q followers, they will dismiss it. You might lose a few believers, but the core group will say anything you try to present to them is a “deepfake,” “fake news,” or a “hoax.”
It’s frustrating– as I discuss in American Madness, once you go down that rabbit hole, it’s really hard to come back from it.
For more ways you can support me and my book, please see this entry: “American Madness is Out Now!“
Purchase from Lion’s Tooth for a signed, inscribed copy, a bonus comic zine, Lion’s Tooth swag, a “this machine kills fascists” sharpie from Feral House, and access to in-person and online events with me! Right here: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.
First, I like to remember that there’s always new readers, so here’s a short intro– my name is Tea, and in 2009 I ran into a story that forever changed my life. I’ve always been fascinated by subcultures, and the “underground,” and I found a report of a movement of people that adopted their own comic book style personas and called themselves “Real-life Superheroes.” I wrote a magazine article about a RLSH here in the Milwaukee area named The Watchman and thought there was a bigger story so I traveled around the country, met about 100 RLSH, went on patrols, did research, interviews, had some strange moments, got punched in the face, and met a lot of cool people I’m still friends with today.
The result of all this was my first book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real-Life Superhero Movement (2013, Chicago Review Press). There’s also a brief revisit to the RLSH (and a man who called himself the Phantom Patriot) in my new book American Madness (Aug. 25, Feral House).
I’m currently working on a research project that studies subcultures/social movements in the year 2020 and their responses to topical issues. That’s about all I can say about it right now. I’m not trying to be mysterious (or am I?) I’m just not sure what the final form of this project will be yet.
A logical place for me to start with this was the RLSH community, where I already had connections. Word of the study was spread on my Heroes in the Night News Facebook page. Many RLSH shared it on Facebook and on a RLSH thread on Reddit.
There were 56 responses, which I believe is a good sample size for this movement. It’s unknown exactly how many active RLSH there are– it isn’t like a club where people pay membership dues, anyone can say they are a RLSH, and people often disappear into the night (or the Internet).
I asked three RLSH I thought would have good insight for their estimate on active RLSH. Rock N Roll, one of the organizers of the multi-city Initiative teams says “maybe 100.” Discordia, who runs the site RLSH News places it slightly higher at around “120-140” or up to “200 if being generous.” And Razorhawk, a well connected RLSH, puts the range “between 100-200.”
My goal was to ask about topical subjects– the 2020 election, Black Lives Matter, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Polling is useful to see if a group leans strongly one direction or another on issues or if they’re split.
The “RLSH 2020 Survey” was 10 questions long. Questions 1-3 asked for name, city (or cities) they were active in, and any team affiliation.
Florida and California led with participants with 8 and St. Petersburg led the count by city with 6. There were 5 from Texas and Oregon, 4 from Seattle and 3 each from Illinois, Tennessee, and New York City. 15 other states had 1-2 representatives.
Several teams were represented, with the most coming from various branches of the Initiative and the Xtreme Justice League, followed by Bay Coast Guardians (St. Petersburg), ECHO (Seattle), PATCH (Chicago), and Firebirds (Dallas). Update– I’ve been informed that Bay Coast Guardians and Firebirds are divisions of the XJL.
Q4: Asked what activities RLSH engaged in. Participants were allowed to choose more than one answer. The results:
Homeless outreach: 50.88%
Patrols and Outreach: 66.67%
Q5: Asked who RLSH had voted for in 2016. My main reason for including this was to see if there had been any major shift in the community from 2016 to 2020. RLSH respoded:
Clinton: 35.85% (19)
3rd Party: 30.19% (16)
Not eligible: 18.87% (10)
Didn’t want to: 5.66% (3)
3 skipped the question
Q6: See chart below. More than one answer was allowed.
Worst: 49.09% Bad/Bad: 49.09%
Bad person/good president: 3.64% Good person/bad president: 1.82%
Good/Good: 1.82% Best: 1.82% Mixed feelings: 9.09%
Q7: Who will RLSH vote for in November?
Interesting in that after Biden (47.17%), 3rd Party candidates came in second (33.96%), similar to results from the 2016 election. I should have specified this more. If any RLSH are reading this and voting 3rd Party, please comment on this blog post to tell us if you’re voting Green, Libertarian, or something else, I’m curious to know. Trump got 5.66% and 15.09% said they are not voting, though I didn’t ask specifically if that was because they were ineligible or didn’t want to.
A clear majority here– 83.93% of RLSH support Black Lives Matter, 5.36% (3 respondents) said they prefer the term “All Live Matter,” 1 respondent said they were indifferent, and 8.93% (5 respondents) said none of the answers above reflected their feelings.
Another clear majority and perhaps not surprising as many RLSH wear a mask for long periods of time, sometimes while they’re running through alleyways. 91.07% said people should wear masks to prevent COVID while 8.93% said people should choose whether or not they want to.
When I first started interviewing RLSH in 2009, they would often tell me that RLSH shouldn’t “be political” and I noted several cases where RLSH from extremely different backgrounds and belief systems worked together on various efforts.
But that was a different time. This answer was split Yes: 23.21% No: 28.57% Depends: 53.57%
Thank you to all RLSH who participated. I’m keeping the info on who partook confidential, but one was Superhero of Clearwater, Florida, who took the survey just a three days before he died. You can read my obituary of him here: teakrulos.com/2020/07/20/death-of-a-superhero/
And please support the fundraiser in his honor here: www.gofundme.com/f/old-superhero
There is a giveaway for FREE copies of my book American Madness on Goodreads, open through Aug. 10. You can enter here: www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/309615-american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-th
It’s available at Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE
and wherever books are sold.
One great thrill about organizing events like the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference and Milwaukee Krampusnacht is all the fantastic vendors I’ve met. I’ve always been proud of our vendor floors– very talented crafters of all sorts.
You can imagine how my eyes bugged out when I saw the work of Koko Van Boxtel, the proprietor of Strange Little Lands and her beautiful dioramas depicting “high strangeness” aka actual cases of the paranormal studies, like alien abductions, cattle mutilations, and cryptozoological cases like Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and Mothman. Other scenes depict folklore like Krampus and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow or macabre history like the witch trials.
Every single one is fun to look at. Like any skilled dioramist, in Koko’s work, the devil is in the details– things you might not see at first or third glance, but you’ll find them eventually.
These are beautiful, unique items and very fairly priced. Check out the Strange Little Lands Etsy page here: www.etsy.com/shop/StrangeLittleLands
There’s a scene that I’ve thought about and studied (via interviews and police reports) a lot in my upcoming book American Madness. I dropped Koko a line to see if she might be interested in being commissioned to create a diorama of it and was thrilled when she replied the she would.
Bohemian Grove, January 20, 2002. That’s when police got a call a “man with a gun” call from inside of the secret retreat, located in northern California in the redwood forest. When they arrived, they were surprised to find a man named Richard McCaslin, heavily armed and wearing an odd homemade costume, a superhero persona he had created called the Phantom Patriot. He had conducted this costumed raid because he had believed a conspiracy theory that the world’s most elite men were committing child sacrifices in front of a 40-foot statue of an owl inside.
You can read all about it in my book– it’s a pretty wild story that led to me researching other aspects of conspiracy culture and how it’s become so prevalent in our lives.
My friend Stephen Vincent Anderson came over and we did a video shoot in my back yard. I’m really lucky to know so many talented people. We cut together this promo video. I think it turned out great, it gives you a short peek into the story:Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.
Now Koko’s diorama is on display in my office, along with other souvenirs from my various book projects over the years, a bizarre moment of history neatly documented in a Strange Little Land.
Here’s some details and behind-the-scenes photos of the diorama that Koko sent me.
SEE ALSO: More on the Bohemian Grove: last week I wrote about the retreat and other secret societies having their summer plans cancelled: https://teakrulos.com/2020/07/16/teas-weird-week-summer-plans-are-canceled-for-the-new-world-order/
Congrats, friend! Dept.: Like I said, I’m lucky to have talented, creative friends– Hillarie Higgins has a blog titled Brain Wars! and has just published The Bank Doesn’t Care if Your House is Haunted: A Ghostly Storybook, a fun and spooky collection of writing and art. Check it out, you can get a copy here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/833639063/the-bank-doesnt-care-if-your-house-is?ref=shop_home_active_1&pro=1
My upcoming book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness, is a wild ride through the Bohemian Grove and conspiracy culture. It’s out August 25, 2020 from Feral House. To pre-order: Lion’s Tooth: CLICK HERE Bookshop.org: CLICK HERE Amazon:CLICK HERE
It’s on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52486773-american-madness
“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