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.
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!