My book American Madness (2020, Feral House) tells the story of Richard McCaslin, who, inspired by conspiracy peddler Alex Jones, bought an arsenal of weapons, created a costumed persona– the Phantom Patriot (complete with a skull mask) raided a place called the Bohemian Grove in 2002, had a standoff with the cops, and went to jail. He died by suicide in 2018.
Sound crazy? Sure. But is it more so than supporting the armed Q d’etat of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in which 5 people died? That’s what Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG), who represents Georgia in the House of Representatives, has done.
That’s my point of this column– when I originally met Richard in 2010, I thought he was the fringest of the fringe. Now, in the Trump era, I think he was somehow ahead of the curve, the zeitgeist. He was conspiracy hip before it was hip to be hip. Could Richard have been elected to Congress? In 2010 I would have laughed at that idea, but these days I think he’d be a shoo-in if he found the right district. Hey, MTG did it (and it looks likely she’ll win reelection this year).
Richard and MTG have some pretty big differences– Richard always despised Trump, for example, and he was suspicious of QAnon (the cult where MTG got her first boost). I think he was a true believer that wanted to help people by exposing the “Deep State,” while MTG is just a hatemonger. But still, they have similar ideas– they believe 9/11 conspiracy and hate Hillary. I don’t know if Richard would go for the Jewish space laser thing– probably. They’re so similar, that I thought I’d show you six quotes. Who said what? Answers are below.
One) “Bill Gates wants you to eat this fake meat that grows in a [petri dish] so you’ll probably get a little zap inside your body that’ll say ‘No, don’t eat a real cheeseburger, you need to eat the fake burger.’”
Two) “The Illuminati controlled CDC lies to the American public, 24/7. Just look at all the money being made on these shots right now… the microchips will definitely be in those shots. Anyone who refuses to get vaccinated will be ‘quarantined’ indefinitely in a FEMA residential center, a concentration camp.”
Three) “As far as our so-called ‘elected’ officials in Washington DC and California are concerned, the Luciferian Doctrine dictates their motives and actions, not the Constitution!”
Four) On the 2017 Mandalay Bay mass shooting in Las Vegas: “How do you get avid gun owners and people that support the Second Amendment to give up their guns and go along with anti-gun legislation? You make them scared, you make them victims and you change their mindset and then possibly you can pass anti-gun legislation. Is that what happened in Las Vegas? I don’t believe [mass shooter Stephen Paddock] pulled this off all by himself.”
Five) On the same 2017 shooting: “Most of the photos taken inside the hotel room look staged; especially the one supposedly showing Stephen Paddock dead on the floor…Paddock was/is obviously a Project Monarch patsy, who was used by the CIA, to get those 13 suitcases of guns and ammo up to the hotel room. Paddock was a high roller in Vegas, so nobody would question the excessive luggage. The motive for the massacre is simple…more gun restrictions, to effectively disarm the American people.”
Six) “Probably, in about four or five generations, no one will be straight anymore. Everyone will be gay or trans or non-conforming or whatever list of 50 or 60 options, which there are.”
One. This is a MJT quote from this week and the inspiration for this column. She said this on her “MTG Live” social media show, though in her exact quote she called it a “peach tree dish,” similarly to her botched attempt to call out “Nancy Pelosi’s gazpacho.” Marjorie Taylor Greene warns of meat grown in a ‘peach tree dish’ while peddling Bill Gates conspiracy (yahoo.com)
Two. Letter to me from Richard, dated Oct. 25, 2010. He was talking about H1N1 and Swine Flu, but mentions there will be a pandemic with mandatory vaccines, an eerie prediction of COVID-19, which he didn’t live to see. He didn’t mention Bill Gates in this, but he did tell me he believed Gates vaccine charity programs in Africa were an attempt at microchipping and/ or genocide for population control.
Three. Letter to me from Richard, dated Dec. 23, 2010. It does sound like a variation on QAnon’s popular “Democrat/elite Satanic baby eating pedophile cabal.”
Four: That’s MJT in a video she posted 4 days after the shooting, on Oct. 5, 2017: (129) Marjorie Taylor Greene video – YouTube
Five: Email to me from Richard, Oct. 6, 2017, the day after MTG posted her video! As you can see, Richard and MJT’s “mass shooter hoax/ false flag” theories were very similar. This is one conspiracy I WISH had a grain of truth to it. When? When will the Deep State take all the guns? For that matter, when will they pass a piece of legislature that will put any sort of reasonable limit on gun purchase whatsoever? I’ve been hearing Obama or someone is “taking the guns” for a solid 14 years now. C’mon, Deep State– do it!
Six: Haaaa, I hope so! Better than a generation of stupid hateful bigots like MTG, who said this. I never heard Richard spout off homophobic shit. And at least he had a cool costume. Marjorie Taylor Greene says straight people will soon be extinct / LGBTQ Nation
Please Clap Dept.: I wrote a feature focusing on commercial fisherman Ken Koyen titled “The Last Fisherman of Washington Island,” for the June issue of Milwaukee Magazine. You can read it here: www.milwaukeemag.com/meet-the-last-fisherman-of-washington-island
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)
Primus has released their first new track in 5 years. It’s titled “Conspiranoia,” and it has some connections to my book American Madness. My book is about Richard McCaslin, who styled himself as a conspiracy commando called the Phantom Patriot. Inspired by Alex Jones, McCaslin fashioned himself a superhero costume and heavily armed himself. He raided a place in the forests of North California called the Bohemian Grove in 2002. Conspiracy says that the world’s most rich and powerful men sacrifice people in a Satanic ritual in front of a giant statue of an owl within the Grove. Richard had a standoff with the police and was arrested.
Les Claypool, bassist and singer for Primus, has a ranch close to the Grove in Occidental, California. Richard’s arrest did not become a huge story, but it was picked up by a couple of California newspapers. Claypool, who read the news stories and was inspired to write a song titled “Phantom Patriot,” which appeared on his solo 2006 album Of Whales and Woe album.
I thought it would be pretty great if I could interview Claypool about this, so I doggedly emailed his talent agency until they agreed to set up a short phone interview with him. He was understandably nervous talking about Richard (“is this a stable individual, would you say?” was the first thing he said to me), as he didn’t want to face violent retaliation. Richard originally liked the “Phantom Patriot” song (he described it as a “modern day folksong”) but, like everything, it soon entered the web of the conspiracy when he saw symbolism in the accompanying video (which, Claypool explained to me, had nothing to do with him– it was just a piece of animation that paired nicely with the track). Richard took his own life in 2018.
When I saw the title of the new Primus song, I remembered a quote from Claypool, which appears on page 98 of American Madness, where Claypool describes the Bohemian Grove:
“…there’s all this mystery of what happens in the Grove with the Bohemian Club, it’s a collection of the elite as well as a bunch of artists,” Claypool explained. “Actually, my old music teacher was a trombonist for the Bohemian Club way back in the day. But there is this mystery, and a bit of conspiranoia as to what goes on there and some of it is fairly extreme.”
After American Madness came out, I did try to email Claypool’s talent agency a couple times to get a copy of the book to him, but got no reply. Les, if you’re reading this, I’d love to send you a book. But maybe he ended up reading it anyhow…
When I saw the link to the video, I set aside 11 minutes 38 seconds to give it a good look. I really love it, it’s a great prog rock that sails the seas of cheese of an epic subject– the ridiculous but sad Conspiracy World.
We meet Lloyd Boyd, conspiranoid who launches himself into the sky in a lawn chair to prove the earth is flat. Ridiculous, huh? Well, no, a Flat Earther named “Mad Mike” Hughes did die in 2020 after launching himself into the skies above Barstow with a rocket for the same goal. What about Marion Barrion, contrarian, who puts cat urine in her eyes, garlic cloves in her nose, and taping dryer sheets to her head to ward off COVID? Not far fetched at all, especially considering the President of the United States of America recommended injecting bleach. That’s the real problem– not the Lloyd Boyds and the Marion Barrions with their tin foil hats, but the people like Trump and Alex Jones who exploit and profit off of their mentalities.
The video goes into a beautiful tapestry of conspiracy classics– Bigfoot, black helicopters, chemtrails, and gay frogs. Many of these topics are discussed in American Madness. My eyes widened at the 4:21 mark, where we see a quick flash of the Great Owl of Bohemia statue in the Grove.
At the 6:23 there is great conspiracy mega-list– some real, some invented for comic effect, some– who knows? It’s hard to tell what are real beliefs and what are jokes these days. Different images flash on rows of TVs, and then at the 8:45 mark, there he is– the Phantom Patriot (same photo as above). Personally, I’m thrilled to see the Phantom Patriot acknowledged. Richard, however, would have dismissed this as some kind of government psy-op program to hide the truth, part of the mass web of conspiracy orchestrated against him. Here’s the video:
I’ll give Primus the last word on this one: “Be wary of conspiranoia/ as purveyors, abound/ for an open mind too open/ spills its contents on the ground.” I couldn’t agree more. That describes exactly what happened to Richard McCaslin.
American Madness is currently being developed into a documentary and this month director Eric Hayden is filming a recreation of the Phantom Patriot’s raid into the Bohemian Grove. I’ve seen pictures of the recreation of Richard’s costume and it is a spot on duplication, down to the last stitch. I’m very excited to see his final footage.
Here is my request, if you’re reading this. Buy a copy of American Madness: Lion’s Tooth//Bookshop.org//Amazon
And please rate/ review on Goodreads, Amazon, and/or share on social media. I appreciate the support.
SEE ALSO: I wrote about the Bohemian Grove shutting down their summer encampment for the first time in 142 years (because of COVID) here: Tea’s Weird Week: Summer Plans are Canceled for the New World Order | (teakrulos.com)
Please Clap Dept.: My article from the March Milwaukee Magazine, “Visibly Indigenous,” is now online. It was a great honor to write: How Milwaukee’s Native Community Is Working to Be Un-Erased (milwaukeemag.com)
Tea’s Weird Week, S4 ep10: The Big French Fry Perfume Beaver Fever Tiger Nuggets Corpse DJ Oregon Trail Charles Darwin Diary Mystery Finale: Me and Heidi talk weird news, trivia answers, closing track by The LOL, “Six Feet Under the Dance Floor.” Fun times!
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week S4 ep10: The Big French Fry Perfume Beaver Fever Tiger Nuggets Corpse DJ Oregon Trail Charles Darwin Diary Mystery Finale (podbean.com)
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Tea’s Weird Week kicks off 2022 with a story of yet another person pushed over the edge by conspiracy theory. And thanks to Tim Demeter for designing the 2022 TWW masthead. You can see more of his work at Quixotronic.
I’m back for 2022! The first column of the new year is a good place to introduce myself to new readers. I’m a freelance journalist and author of six non-fiction books. I like to write about a wide range of topics, but am maybe most known for writing about strange subcultures and social movements, and conspiracy, paranormal, and folklore. I love weird shit. I live in Milwaukee.
Plenty of weird stuff has happened over the last month or two over since TWW went on break. But one story in particular caught my eye because when I saw it my thought was oh shit, here’s yet another guy that reminds me of Richard McCaslin. Richard was the main subject of my book American Madness. He fell into a conspiracy rabbit hole, raided a secret society camp called the Bohemian Grove in 2002 and eventually took his own life. That’s the short version, you can find my book here: American Madness | (teakrulos.com)
Since then there’s been many other examples of stories like Richard– the Pizzagate Raider (Edgar Maddison Welch), the Nashville Bomber (Anthony Quinn Warner), the Mason Lodge Arsonist (Benjamin Kohlman), and I would say even the Jan. 6 Q d’etat are similar stories.
Here’s the scene of the latest– December 8, a limousine crashes through the fences of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Matthew Ray Hancock, 36, is the driver and proceeds to do some donuts in the limo in a parking lot before driving onto a plane ramp to cruise by several airplanes, stopping near a parked jet. Employees confront him and see that he’s wearing a clown mask.
“I’ve got a fucking bomb! I’m going to blow this place up!” Hancock tells the employees.
Police showed up and quickly arrested Hancock. He asked them to refer to him as “the Chosen One,” and told them his plan was to hijack a jet and fly it to Area 51, the legendary secret Nevada base which is alleged to be a repository of extra-terrestrials and their technology. It’s a classic pillar of conspiracy theory and Hancock says he wanted to go there to “look for aliens.” Whatever goes down there, it is true that an unmarked plane with the call JANET leaves McCarran daily to fly employees to Area 51. In 2019, there was a viral “Raid Area 51” Facebook event, which suggested that a large number of people could overtake the base and see the hidden ETs inside, however, only a small crowd actually showed up and gathered peacefully outside the gates.
Hancock had a homemade bomb of sorts in his limo– an oxygen tank and fire extinguisher tethered together on a piece of wood with some other pieces of metal, decorated with Christmas tree lights. When questioned, Hancock also made the claims that he had a high level security clearance, was also a member of the mob, and that someone owed him millions of dollars.
Police charged him with misdemeanor trespassing, and felonies for making a terrorist threat and dispersal with a hoax. I will be keeping tabs on any developments in this story.
Please Clap Dept.: Over the break I was a guest on the Shorewood Library podcast, Shorewood Stacks. I love libraries! Great conversation, mostly about my book American Madness. You can listen here: Episode 5 American Madness: An Interview with Tea Krulos (podbean.com)
Tea’s Weird Week podcast, S4 Ep01: Our guest Zelia Edgar talks about her first book, Just Another Tin Foil Hat Presents, which is a collection of classic paranormal case studies out now. Zelia told us about the mysterious lore of Platteville, the Loveland Frogmen, and Wisconsin’s favorite UFO story– Joe Simonton and his space pancakes.
Then me and Heidi talk about our January travels and discuss Matthew Ray Hancock’s limo ride, escaped lab monkeys, and a “Trump prophetess” who visited heaven and saw John Wayne filming a new cowboy flick. Plus new trivia from Miss Information and we close out with a bangin’ track, “Bigfoot, Take the Wheel,” by IfIHadAHiFi.
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)
Over the summer I was contacted by a filmmaker named Eric Hayden, who had heard me on a podcast (Rumor Flies) talking about my book, American Madness. He got a copy and read it and then messaged me, asking if I’d thought about adapting the book into a documentary. I told him I had always believed that the book would adapt well into that format.
There were a couple things that made me want to work with Eric (and his wife, Kim).
One was that he had read the book and understood it. That might seem like a low bar, but over the past ten years or so I’ve talked to plenty of reality show jokers and other people with film projects who want me in on something they’re developing who haven’t read my stuff. At best they are wasting my time (and their own). At worst, they are hoping that I hand over my research and/or contacts to a fringe group of people for little to nothing in return. Eric was offering to have me be involved each step of the way, something very much appreciated by me.
Second– Eric’s background is not in documentary filming but mostly video effects (though he does have directing and writing credits), however in looking at his impressive resume it was clear to me that he built his career by being hard-working, innovative, and talented. Some of the films he’s worked on include Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, Deadwood: The Movie (Eric’s team was nominated for a video effects Emmy for that one), and many more. Most recently, he’s been a video effects supervisor on The Orville.
So after some discussion, we agreed to start working on this documentary with myself, Kim and Eric producing, Eric directing, and me helping set up interviews. The first day of shooting was July 31 and was an extended interview with me here in Milwaukee. Since then, we’ve been working slowly but steadily to arrange interviews, dig up materials, and plan the direction of the documentary. We’re in contact almost every day– today, for example, me and Eric have been texting about how the tragic death on the set of a movie starring Alec Baldwin is ripe for a quickly developing conspiracy around it.
Earlier this month, we decided to spend a few days interviewing in Northern California and LA. It was a great, productive trip. Here’s some notes on what we did. If you don’t know what the Bohemian Grove or Richard McCaslin is, you should read my book American Madness.
I arrived in San Francisco on October 7 and spent the next day, Friday, relaxing. I met my friend Elizabeth for lunch, she had moved from Milwaukee to San Francisco many years ago. Saturday, Oct. 9 was the longest day of shooting interviews. We started out by talking to “Anonymous Grove Valet,” someone who had worked in one of the Bohemian Grove camps for over ten summers as a “valet,” an all purpose job of cooking, pouring drinks, cleaning, helping with luggage, etc. We wanted to find out what this person did or did not see in the Grove and what the clientele was like.
From there we headed to Superhero Desserts (1449 Webster St.) in Alameda, a bakery operated by Real-life Superhero members of the California Initiative. I first met Rock N Roll and Night Bug ten years ago at an RLSH event called HOPE in 2011. Def some of the favorite people I’ve met in that movement, I’ve several times cited them as doing the RLSH the “right” way. And so cool that they’ve opened their bakery business, a portion of proceeds going to their food/supply handouts to the unhoused. Rock and Bug also met Richard McCaslin in passing a couple times. It was great to see them and my only regret, as always, was not having more time.
From Superhero Desserts, we ventured further north to visit Mary Moore. Mary is a longtime activist and one of the founders of the Bohemian Grove Action Network. For decades, she helped organize a group of activists who gathered outside the gates of the Bohemian Grove every summer to protest. BGAN was also key in sneaking undercover reporters into the Grove and extracting documents and pictures out (by Grove employees). I interviewed her by phone for American Madness, but slowly cruising up a windy, narrow mountain road to visit her cottages in the Redwood forest was quite an experience. Now in her 80s, Mary showed us around her incredible collection of research and I’m so glad we got to visit and get an interview with her. Mary lives just a few miles down the road from the Grove, so we of course had to visit. We didn’t attempt to trespass, but shot some footage in the area.
The next day, on Sunday, we interviewed Don Eichelberger, another BGAN founder, in front of the Bohemian Club in downtown San Francisco, then began the long drive down to the Los Angeles area. Once there, the Haydens were incredibly hospitable towards me, letting me stay in their guest room. We shot an interview with Dave Baker and Andrew Price, comic book writers and hosts of the Deep Cuts podcast, who were able to give insight on comic book aesthetics and conspiracy problems (they are currently unrolling a massive Deep Cuts series on QAnon, listen here: deepcutspod.com). We had another meeting, then I flew home.
There’s still much to do on the documentary, including work on reenactments and interviews in other cities. For now, we’re catching up on the many hours of interviews that were already filmed. I’ll update periodically as production moves forward. And next week I’ll talk about ANOTHER (but smaller scoped) documentary short project I’m working on about local horror hosts. Fun stuff!
Tea’s Weird Week, S3 ep 05: Denver Airport Conspiracy: On my way home from California, I transferred at Denver International, a notorious hub of conspiracy. I spoke to my Denver friend Jenny Sanchez (Long Days Travel) about how these conspiracies spun. Me and my co-host Heidi Erickson discussed weird news about the Not Deer, an unemployed wizard, the country’s fattest pumpkin, the Zodiac Killer, and more. Plus trivia with Miss Information, and we close out with a track by Jon Henry, “Chicken Little.”
Listen here: Tea‘s Weird Week S3 ep05: Denver Airport Conspiracy (podbean.com)
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Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
Mid-July always reminds me of a certain mystery ritual involving a giant owl statue and the burning of a pesky entity named Dull Care. Every second weekend of July, the Bohemian Club kicks off their Midsummer encampment in the Bohemian Grove retreat. The Bohemian Club was founded in San Francisco 1872. The original intent of the club was to foster art and culture in San Francisco, with most of the original members being writers, performers, and artists. It quickly grew into a status symbol, and the club began admitting men (it is a men only club) of means. Over it’s history, the Club has included several U.S. presidents and countless politicians, celebrities, CEOs, top brass military, musicians, and other movers and shakers.
Six years after the club was founded, one of the founding members, actor Henry Edwards, announced he was moving to New York. The club– about a hundred members at the the time, decided to have a going away camp out party for Edwards. An account of that first Midsummer Encampment, written by playwright Porter Garnett in 1908 says:
“The camp was without many comforts, but the campers were well supplied with the traditional Bohemian spirit– the factors of which are intellect, taste, conviviality, self-indulgence, and the joys of life. They were also provided with blankets to keep them warm and a generous supply of liquor for the same reason.”
The “Bohemians” enjoyed this outing so much that they made it an annual tradition. It is, what President (and Bohemian Club member) Herbert Hoover called “the greatest men’s party on earth.” The Club bought up a 2,700 acre plot in the redwood forest outside of Monte Rio, California and built cabins and other facilities. During the July summer encampment, which kicks off the second weekend of July, members enjoy theatrical performances, music, the great outdoors, and a lot of boozing and schmoozing. Oh yeah– they also kick the vacation off with a bizarre effigy burning ceremony in front of a giant statue of an owl.
In the 1880s, the Grove began what is called the Cremation of Care ceremony. It’s a piece of pageantry in which some of the club members dress as druids, recite poetic odes to the forest, then bring forward an effigy named “Dull Care” in front of the Great Owl of Bohemia statue. Dull Care is supposed to represent their worldly concerns that might get in the way of them being in party-mode. Dull Care mocks the Bohemians, but then the owl statue lights up and speaks! He instructs the priests to use a flame from a lamp at the base of the statue to destroy Dull Care. The Bohemians burn Dull Care, lots of cheering, fireworks, and drinks follow.
The reason we know about this secretive ritual (no press is allowed in) is from a series of undercover journalists who have infiltrated over the years from the 1970s to the 2000s.
In 2000, conspiracy peddler Alex Jones (of InfoWars) snuck into the Grove and recorded the Cremation of Care ceremony with a hidden camera. He cut this footage into a sensationalized “documentary” titled Dark Secrets: Inside the Bohemian Grove. In it he suggests that the ceremony is a satanic rite, the owl statue is Moloch, and the effigy might actually be a real person, who knows, maybe a child! And there’s your keystone of many conspiracies, from old anti-Semitic “blood libel” myths that said Jewish people used the blood of Christian children for rituals to modern QAnon nonsense about a Deep State cabal of pedophiles that get high off of adrenochrome they harvest from kids.
This Jones documentary influenced a person named Richard McCaslin to adopt a costumed persona, the Phantom Patriot, with a mission to raid the Bohemian Grove, “save the children,” and destroy the Great Owl statue. He was heavily armed when he snuck into the Grove the night of January 19, 2002. Here are pictures he took shortly before that date:
Things did not go as planned for the Phantom Patriot. You can read more on the history of the Bohemian Club (including what Oscar Wilde and Richard Nixon think of it), the strange, random life of Richard McCaslin, and the journey of the Phantom Patriot into the Bohemian Grove (in a chapter titled “Burn the Owl”) and what followed in my book American Madness.
For the Tea’s Weird Week podcast this week. I decided to have a Midsummer Encampment of my own and did a table read of sorts of the entire Cremation of Care ceremony with the help of some podcast host friends I made while promoting American Madness. I played the role of Priest One, while Aaron Franz (The Age of Transitions podcast, author of Revolve) voiced Priest Two. Dave Baker (Deep Cuts podcast, author of the new Everyone is Tulip graphic novel) acted (and sang!) the roles of Priest Three/ Great Owl of Bohemia, and Joseph L. Flatley (Failed State Update podcast, author of New Age Grifter, out next month from Feral House, publisher of American Madness) got the role of the sinister Dull Care.
We didn’t have the druid robes or the giant owl statue, but I think we brought that secret society swagger to the reading. Thanks guys! And begone, Dull Care! The episode also features a clip from an interview I did with Richard McCaslin from 2015 (not heard by anyone but me before) as well as the weird news segment with me and Heidi, a new trivia question from Miss Information and closes with a new track from snag., “Paradigm Shift.”
Listen to Tea’s Weird Week, S2 Ep09, Burn the Owl (Revisited) here: Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep09: Burn the Owl (Revisited) (podbean.com)
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SEE ALSO: Last summer I wrote a Tea’s Weird Week column (that appeared in a slightly different form as an article in Fortean Times) about how the Bohemian Grove summer encampment was called off for the first time in 142 years, as well as meet-ups for the Bilderberg Group and (probably) Skull & Bones: “Summer Plans are Cancelled for the New World Order.”
Get the full story of the Bohemian Grove and Richard McCaslin in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness here: Lion’s Tooth/ Bookshop.org/ Amazon
By Tea Krulos
In my book American Madness, I tell the story of Richard McCaslin who, after watching a documentary by Alex Jones (InfoWars), is inspired to adopt a superhero conspiracy commando persona, the Phantom Patriot, and raid a secret retreat called the Bohemian Grove. He was arrested and spent over six years in prison. Richard first contacted me when he was still on parole and we communicated his preferred way for the first year or so– good old fashioned letter writing. When I opened my second letter from Richard, I remember my eyeballs being overwhelmed because he had written out the key points of his beliefs about Reptilian aliens (you can find a scan of some pages of this letter at the end of this post). What the hell was this guy talking about?
The Reptilian theory suggests that a race of cold-blooded, shape-shifting lizard people has infiltrated the human race and that many of our world leaders are Reptilians in disguise. The father of this theory and it’s major proponent is British conspiracist David Icke. After he was released from prison, Richard became a devote follower of Icke, attending one of his 9-hour long lectures and reading his hefty volumes of conspiracy rants. When Richard took his own life, he left behind a document, outlining 21 final points he wanted to make. Much of it was calling out people he felt had wronged him or our society in general, but one of the few people he mentioned in a positive light was David Icke. As I detail in a chapter of American Madness titled “Reptoid Royalty,” Icke’s teachings were so profound to Richard that he abandoned his religious beliefs and he began to view the world as a place overrun by Reptilians.
As details began to emerge about Anthony Quinn Warner, the suicide bomber who blew up an RV in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning, I immediately began to see things that reminded me of Richard McCaslin:
-Reptilians. Investigators found that Warner, who ran an IT service installing alarm systems, had “paranoia over 5G technology” and that “they also found writings that contained ramblings about assorted conspiracy theories, including the idea of shape-shifting reptilian creatures that appear in human form and attempt world domination.” It is also reported that Warner “hunted” extra-terrestrials in a nearby state park. Imagine going for an evening walk and encountering that guy with a shotgun and a net!
-Richard and Warner were unmarried, childless, loners, but described by people who encountered them as friendly, polite, helpful. Richard had no prior criminal record. Warner only had a marijuana charge from 1978.
-Both had recently lost family and had family troubles. Richard, an only child, had lost both his parents and then had an ugly dispute with his aunts and cousins over inheritance money before his Bohemian Grove raid. Warner had lost his father in 2011 (who was an employee of BellSouth, which merged with AT&T, so there’s another possible motive) and a brother and reportedly had a property dispute with his mother.
-Richard and Warner both had romantic failings. Warner had a girlfriend as of last year, who called police on him in August 2019 to tell them he was building bombs in his RV. The police subsequently told the FBI, and it appears both agencies let the threat slip by them.
-Unlike other acts of domestic terrorism, Richard and Warner didn’t have the goal of killing people like the Oklahoma City bombers or a mass shooter– the body count between the two of them is zero. Richard was hoping to free victims slated to be sacrificed in a ritual (Edgar Maddison Welch, the Pizzagate believer, raided a Washington DC pizzeria with a similar intent). Warner had a loudspeaker in his RV that warned people to evacuate the area, then gave a countdown, creepily interspersed with Petula Clark’s song “Downtown,” where she sings about how feelings of loneliness can be cured with a visit to the heart of the city where “things will be great.” His RV explosion significantly damaged an entire block of downtown Nashville and was heard for miles.
I think both Richard and Warner wanted a dramatic exit. You can read more about Richard’s death in American Madness, where you’ll find he was determined to send a last protest message. And Warner obviously wanted his horrifying death to be a spectacle, too. Just a few days before Christmas, a neighbor saw him at his mailbox and asked him if Santa was going to bring him anything good for Christmas.
“Oh yeah, Nashville and the world is never going to forget me,” Warner replied. Days later, the shocked neighbor said he was “speechless” when he saw the new meaning to Warner’s words, a man the neighbor said was “quiet” and “raised no red flags.”
We don’t know for sure what Warner’s goal was, yet– he may have simply wanted attention by blowing himself up Christmas morning. But the fact that he parked his RV in front of an AT&T center mixed with his conspiracy beliefs makes it likely he had some kind of 5G theories. These conspiracies vary, but most say that 5G radiation causes sickness, cancer, and either causes or exacerbates COVID-19. Warner reportedly gave his car away to someone, telling them he had cancer. Maybe he blamed his exposure to 5G as an IT person? Other theories say it’s being used as a mind control weapon. Here again we encounter David Icke, who has promoted these theories, including on an appearance on the show London Real, which was viewed millions of times before being pulled by most platforms. All this has led to a string of 5G tower arson caused by conspiracy theorists across Europe.
I’m sad to say that this is the type of story we’re going to continue to see. Many conspiracy believers like QAnon and the followers of InfoWars are rallying and believe they are now at war with the Biden administration. We will see more Reptilian Hunters, Phantom Patriots, Wolverine Watchmen, QAnon Warriors, and election fraud conspiracy vigilantes. Conspiracy theory sounds goofy, but we’re seeing the dangerous consequences of it’s viral spread.
UPDATE Jan.2, 2021: Letters that Warner sent before his suicide bombing are now being received by people he knew. They are apparently filled with conspiracy, talking about 9/11, the moon landing, Reptilians, and question reality itself. Source: “Nashville bomber’s bizarre writings reveal belief in aliens and lizard people,” NewsChannel 5 Nashville
The following is three pages from the second letter I received from Richard McCaslin, dated Oct.25, 2010, in which he tries to explain the “Reptilian agenda” to me, based on the theories of David Icke. Here Richard writes “it’s going to get ‘weird’; but just bear with me.”
My book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (Feral House) is available now:
Lion’s Tooth: www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/
I’m not rich or famous (infamous, maybe), not really an amazing or even stable person. But one thing I’m very happy about– I’ve met a lot of interesting people in my life. I’ve freelanced hundreds of articles about musicians, artists, comedians, business owners, roller derby skaters, activists, and many other interesting people. I’ve penned 5 books now, most which have delved into social movements and subcultures and were based on interviews and getting “out in the field.” I’ve also met people through events I’ve organized, day jobs, and just “hanging out” in person and on the Internet. Some people have been friends for many years, others have joined me for a brief chapter of my life. I appreciate you.
Over the years, many people I considered friends have passed on, all gone too soon. It is harsh and sad when this happens. For my last column of the year, I just want to remember some really cool people I had the honor of meeting who passed on in 2020.
As Milwaukee Krampusnacht, a celebration of the tradition of Krampus got started in 2017, Scott (aka the Chicago Krampus) was one of the first to sign up. He was a great advocate and ambassador for the event and got several of his friends involved. I was immediately impressed with his amazing Krampus costume and his energy for the event. After talking with him I knew Krampusnacht would not just be a fun party, but a special cultural celebration.
Scott told me he was excited that the Krampus tradition would carry on to a new generation and as such he was perfect to talk at our Kid’s Krampus Hour in 2018 and 2019. He told a room full of kids about the Krampus tradition while they worked on their own Krampus craft masks, then equally entertained adults as he crept around and posed for pictures.
He will be missed and remembered, always, but especially on December 5.
Scott’s personality naturally drew the camera to him and I think he’s the heart of the story in a nice segment Outdoor Wisconsin did on Milwaukee Krampusnacht:
Dale Pople aka “Superhero“
He was as colorful and bold as a comic book and he had a hobby that matched– trying to help people out. I met Dale while working on my first book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement. Dale lived in Clearwater, Florida (I met him in San Diego) where he was a familiar sight driving around in his bright red Supermobile. He was dedicated to lending a helping hand, but his internal struggles became too much and he took his life. It was a terrible shock to the Real-life Superhero (RLSH) community, where he was seen as one of the best and a mentor.
You can read a longer obituary I wrote on Dale here: “Death of a Superhero“
Richard McCaslin aka the “Phantom Patriot“
Richard died in 2018, but he was very much on my mind this year, for two reasons– my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness was released this year after many years of work. It tells Richard’s life story, a tale of comic book superheroes and conspiracy theory, from beginning to tragic end.
The second reason is 2020 has been an incredible, out-of-control period of conspiracy theory. A lot of people and ideas Richard told me about that seemed fringe and obscure are now part of our national conversation, discussed daily in the media. 2020 has been Richard’s year and I’ve often wondered what he would have made of all this.
You can read about Richard in American Madness and in a obituary I wrote here: “Richard McCaslin: An Obituary.”
Jason was someone who was a part of a former life of mine. I worked as a cashier at the Brady Street Pharmacy for about ten years (roughly 2000-2009) and saw Jason often– he was regular who was usually in for lunch or to have coffee with a client. He worked as an immigration attorney.
During this time, I got a divorce. It was emotionally painful, as you can imagine, and one day Jason pulled me aside and told me he would help me file the paperwork and join me in court for free, all I had to do was pay the filing fees. He really helped me deal with something I didn’t want to deal with.
I’m not telling this story to make you think I’m special, in fact the point is the opposite– Jason did this sort of thing all the time. He worked pro bono or charged way below a normal fee to help people who were struggling.
He was shot in September in a road rage type of incident, which is terrifying and tragic as he leaves behind a wife and two kids. Edgar Mendez wrote an article on Jason for Urban Milwaukee which quotes an economics professor, Luz Sosa, who Jason helped gain citizenship and she says it best:
“He was a citizen of the world and helped everyone regardless of color, religion, or creed.”
We sure could use a lot more of that. What a terrible loss.
Sarah Kozar & Paul Setser
Sarah Kozar and Paul Setser were well known in Milwaukee’s music scene. I first encountered Sarah, the Accordion Queen of Milwaukee, when I was asked to draw a flyer for a benefit show she was headlining with her group Sixty Watt Sarah. I didn’t know what a Sixty Watt Sarah was and what to draw, so I went with a robot playing a ukulele while a mad scientist danced a Highland fling in the background. Later, I would meet Sarah and I have found memories of having beers with her a couple times at a bar called Riverhorse. She was fun and radiant.
I encountered Paul many times, starting in the late 90s. I first met him when we both had shows on Milwaukee’s pirate radio station, the Wireless Virus. My show had several names, but my favorite was “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” For awhile my show was directly before or after Paul’s show. I wrote an article on Danny Price & the Loose Change, one of many bands Setser had been in over the years for the Shepherd Express way back in 2008, sitting in on one of their practice sessions at Setser’s house. I think I quoted him in an article I wrote on Circle A, where he did sound, door, DJed, and performed. In addition to Circle A, I also saw him frequently at the Brady Street Pharmacy when I worked there, he was often in to get coffee and food at the counter, writing out set lists and other notes.
My friend Ellen C. Warren wrote a nice profile on Paul for the Riverwest Currents neighborhood newspaper in 2018. You can read it here: riverwestcurrents.org/2018/04/neighbor-spotlight-april-2018-paul-setser.html
On November 28, there was a funeral march in memory of Paul, Sarah, and a musician named Dave Bolyard (who I never had the opportunity to meet). It started at Quarter’s, where Paul worked and organized shows and walked to the Circle A. In true Riverwest fashion, the crowd of 100-200 people just took over the street, as musicians played on.
As I walked with the crowd, I thought about all the people I’ve known over the years that have died and about all the deaths this year from COVID. I thought about all the people who marched in the streets this year demanding change. 2020 has been a hell of a year.
Rest in peace, my friends. I’m so glad I got a chance to meet you. You will not be forgotten.
This is my last column for 2020. The column will return January 8, 2021. Happy holidays and thanks for reading my words in this extra weird and sometimes terrible year. Happy trails!
You can support me and get a holiday gift for your beloved weirdos by buying my books. You can get a signed copy of my book American Madness from Lion’s Tooth: lionstoothmke.square.site/product/American_Madness_product/623
Signed copies of my other 4 books can be found on the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Square store (scroll down to the “Tea’s Weird Week Gift Shop” section): milwaukee-para-con.square.site
I’m very happy to be joining Quimby’s Bookstore (one of my favorite bookstores) for a virtual event this Tuesday, October 20, 7:30pm CST, It’s free to anyone in the world and will be livestreaming from their YouTube Page: www.youtube.com/user/QuimbysBookstore
Facebook event: www.facebook.com/events/2150860985077674
I’ll be talking about my new book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (Feral House). If you order through Quimby’s, you get an autographed nameplate for the book PLUS a bonus reprint of a comic (while supplies last) created by Richard McCaslin, aka the Phantom Patriot, the main subject of the book.
We’ll also being doing an online conspiracy theory trivia session. Tip: read American Madness and you’ll have the competitive edge as many questions (but not all) will be pulled from the book.
What could you win? Come on dowwwwwwn for these fantastic conspiracy-related prizes!
May the odds be ever in your favor! Order American Madness via Quimby’s here: https://www.quimbys.com/store/9655
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.