I see there’s a new Conjuring movie out, the latest addition to the “Conjuring-verse” starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as “demonologists” Ed and Lorraine Warren. Oh Hollywood, you old devil.
Before I delve more into that, let’s revisit the “Trash TV” era of daytime tabloid talk shows. In the 80s and 90s, shows like Geraldo (1987-1998), Donahue (1970-1996), The Jenny Jones Show (1991-2003), The Jerry Springer Show (1991-2018), Maury (1991-present), and The Sally Jesse Rafaël Show (1983-2002) and others were all in competition with each other.
While cruising around Google, I found an episode of The Sally Jesse Rafaël Show with Ed and Lorraine Warren as guests from 1992 and it is just hog wild. In 1992 all of the shows I listed were on daytime TV and if you wanted to grab those ratings, you best dump the idle chit chat and get down and dirty– scream at a Satanist, get your nose broken by a white supremacist, send bratty teens to boot camp, break someone’s heart or reveal that they are “not the father.”
The Warrens fit right in to this environment. In the Conjuring movies the Warrens are depicted as beautiful people that are courageous warriors fighting demons, but there are quite a lot of accounts that suggest otherwise. They’ve been accused of being grifters who fabricate, exaggerate, and exploit to sell books, movies based on their appearances, and get paid appearances. They were experts of making a mountain out of a molehill, and as such were perfect Trash TV guests.
The Warrens 1992 appearance on Sally Jessy Rafaël’s show tied in with the release of a book titled In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting, which was turned in the pre-Conjuring-verse film The Haunting in Connecticut. The book is listed as being authored by the Warrens, the Snedekers (Al and Carmen), and another person I’ll talk more about in a minute. The Snedekers claim that in 1986, they moved into a home that was a former funeral home in Southington, Connecticut. The Snedekers say that their entire family witnessed supernatural events and the parents said they were sexually assaulted by ghosts or demons (incubus/succubus). They called in the Warrens, who stayed for 9 weeks or so, culminating with an exorcism that cleared the evil forces out. The case was also featured on shows like A Haunting and Paranormal Witness.
The Warrens (and the Snedekers) were not writers. The Warrens would hand notes to an author, usually a burgeoning horror novelist, so they could write a dramatic account of what happened. In the case of the Snedeker book, the Warrens hired then 29-year-old horror author Ray Garton. Garton was sent to interview the Snedekers and he says the story immediately began to fall apart.
In an interview, Garton says:
“When I found that the Snedekers couldn’t keep their individual stories straight, I went to Ed Warren and explained the problem. “They’re crazy,” he said. “All the people who come to us are crazy, that’s why they come to us. Just use what you can and make the rest up. You write scary books, right? Well, make it up and make it scary. That’s why we hired you.”
Yikes. Garton also says in the interview that “the family was a mess, but their problems were not supernatural and they weren’t going to get the kind of help they needed from the Warrens,” and that he never met the son, who much of the story revolved around. “I was allowed to talk to him briefly on the phone, but as soon as he started telling me that the things he ‘saw’ in the house went away after he’d been medicated, Carmen abruptly ended the conversation,” Garton says. The Warrens also said they had a videotape of supernatural activity– which Garton never saw because the Warrens said they lost it.
Garton finished the book, but guilt about fabricating the story led him to later speak out in several interviews. He called the book “the low point of my career.” And he says he’s not the only writer with this experience. From the same interview:
“Since writing the book, I’ve learned a lot that leaves no doubt in my mind about the fraudulence of the Warrens and the Snedekers — not that I had much doubt, anyway. I’ve talked to other writers who’ve been hired to write books for the Warrens — always horror writers, like myself — and their experiences with the Warrens have been almost identical to my own.”
With all this in mind, here is the 1992 episode of The Sally Jessy Rafaël Show titled “I Was Raped by a Ghost.” I included some notes on the program (but not on the incredible 90s fashion). A content warning, as the title implies, there is talk of alleged sexual assault by demons. Here is video of the entire episode:
0:15: Yes, the actual title for this episode was “I Was Raped by a Ghost.” Screen captions explain guests with phrases like: “Al SAYS HE WAS SODOMIZED BY A GHOST” and Al & Carmen SAY THEY WERE SEXUALLY MOLESTED BY A GHOST.
8:40: Sally Jesse: “In order to fully understand, we want you to show us what happened. We have a bed here today…” uh WHUT.
12:22: Al: “Carmen, I think I was just sodomized by this demon.”
12:40: Carmen imitates demon laughing as it takes pleasure sodomizing her, sounds like Count Chocula.
20:00: Carmen: “One night I ran down the street with Kelly, being sodomized the whole way.” I’m starting to think the Snedekers maybe just had a bad case of hemorrhoids.
21:43: Richard and other neighbors: NOT IMPRESSED, OVER IT.
28:27: This woman went on to be the most frequent poster in your neighborhood-orientated Facebook group (and also the butt of reoccurring jokes in that group).
31:54: Here’s Ed and Lorraine, promoting the book I mentioned, In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting. Sally refers to them as “ghostbusters.” Ed’s opening line is “We feel through our investigation that necrophilia, abuse of the corpses occurred at the home. Not necessarily by the undertakers, it could be anyone that went in there.” Dude, what?! He doesn’t offer any proof that would back up his pretty bold claim that the neighborhood’s dearly departed were being buggered, but I would guess the source was a psychic vision by Lorraine.
33:01: Neighbors: YEAH RIGHT. Also, weird green screen of the Snedeker House behind them. Just looks weird.
34:38: And if you want to know where the party is, this guy knows.
35:40: “If you ask the gentleman sitting right over there.” Uh yeah, that gentleman might be biased– that’s the Warren’s nephew and heir apparent John Zaffis, who went on to star in the reality show Haunted Collector.
38:58: They gave Joe Nickell of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry about 3 minutes, most of it Ed shouting over him. You might think it strange that a guy who loves weird stuff and hosts a Milwaukee Paranormal Conference and leads ghost tours would not like a skeptic, but that’s not true. Nickell is a great research journalist and I’m a fan of that. He’s got good information that Warrens are liars and that’s why Ed is trying to yell over him.
41:53: Carmen: “Ghosts have no gender, I don’t think. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe they have a gender.” That might be true, but they def got something they can stick in your butt.
42:16: Sally: “The exorcism apparently worked,” on hearing that the Snedekers were no longer being haunted.
Well, there you go, I think we all learned a valuable lesson here…that demonic hauntings can PAY BIG. The Haunting in Connecticut movie made over $77 million at the box office, The Conjuring made $318 million (one of the most profitable horror films of all time) and spawned 6 sequels and spin-offs. Hey, I get it– I’ve seen maybe 4 out of 7 of these movies, and I enjoyed them– just ignore that “based on a true story” bullshit claim at the beginning of the movie.
Tea’s Weird Week Season 2 Episode 4, Thanatochemistry: My co-host Heidi Erickson interviews death professional Kelly Teague about thanatochemistry, green funerals, and the Death Cafe, Tea and Heidi talk about the upcoming Midwest Haunters Convention and weird news about squids in space, mathematical bees, watermelon crushin’ record, a strange drone attack, and the classic 2004 case of Marvin Heemeyer and his Killdozer. Plus trivia from Miss Information, original music by Android138 and we close out with a fiery track from Queen Tut, “Matador.”
Listen here! Tea’s Weird Week S2 ep04: Thanatochemistry (podbean.com)
Check out my latest books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
How to describe Schroeder Used Books and Music? As one Yelp review started, how can I even begin? Another uses a word that succinctly sums up the store: overwhelming. Schroeder Books (often also called Schroeder’s) was a cluttered and strange used book store in a suburb of Milwaukee, West Allis, located across the street from the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds on 76th St and Greenfield Ave.
Inside– an avalanche of stacks and boxes and piles of all sorts of books, instruction manuals, magazines, cassette tapes, records, 8-tracks, VHS, porn, and a decoration of plush animals and knick knacks in the windows. The store manager was an eccentric woman named Alma who wore a lopsided Halloween wig and sat perched on a pile of magazines near the doorway (the front counter had been buried in magazines and books. The store was shut down in 2015 by the West Allis Fire Dept.
Last month, the new owner of the building opened the doors a few times to try to sell some of the massive stock. His goal is to clear the storefront out (a massive undertaking) so he can clean up and lease it to a new business (or 2 or 3, the store could easily be divided). Everything was $1, with an even better deal on bigger piles. I was able to go to one of these sales to peruse Schroeder Books one last time.
In the latest Tea’s Weird Week podcast, me and Miss Information did a dramatic reading of some of the Yelp reviews Schroeder Books picked over the years, I talked about some of the books I found at that sale and did an on-the-spot interview with my friend Alex about a rare item found in the store– you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out what, though.
With Schroeder Books gone, where can one go in Milwaukee to dig into some used books? Here’s my list:
–Downtown Books (624 N. Broadway) one of my favorites– I used to hang out at their old location a lot because it had an amazing collection of comic books and sci-fi stuff. It is organized and clean and has a good selection.
–Renaissance Books (Mitchell International and Southridge Mall) Renaissance used to have a store in a big, creaky, dusty building downtown on Plankinton Ave. Like Schroeder Books, it was shut down because of code violations in 2011– it was overstuffed with books, the floors were sagging, the stairs felt unsteady. Check out this article/ photos from Bobby Tanzilo for OnMilwaukee.com: Urban spelunking: A peek inside the old Renaissance Books (onmilwaukee.com) The store has lived on, though, as they have a store in Mitchell International, the only used bookstore I’ve encountered in an airport and one in Southridge Mall (I haven’t visited that one).
–Voyageur Books (2212 S. Kinnickinnic Ave) A really nice new, used, and antiquarian store. Really good browsing and just up the street from the wonderful Lion’s Tooth bookstore and cafe.
–The Turning Page (2452 N. Murray Ave.) This used to be the Schroeder Books of comic book stores– a heap of comics spanning decades piled all over the place, run by an eccentric character. The new owners did a great job cleaning the store up and making it an organized and functional new and used store.
Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep03 Lost in the Schroeder Books Vortex: I talk more about Schroeder Books and me and Miss Information read some of the Yelp reviews of the store. In the news segment, Tea and Heidi talk about upcoming events they’ll be at, the Rod of Iron Ministries, a sovereign citizen on a Dukes of Hazzard-style police chase, Pokémon (Got to shoot your ass), Unusual Mortality Events of whales, and more. Plus Miss Information has new trivia, original music from Dan Hintz and Android138, and we close out with a brand new conspiracy-themed track from Xposed 4heads, “Kink in the System.”
Please Clap Dept.: I’m honored to say I won a National Indie Excellence Book Award in the “Current Events” category for my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness. You can order the book via Lion’s Tooth, Bookshop.org, Amazon, or wherever books are sold.
It’s so thrilling to have the podcast back on the air for a “season 2.” We kicked things off this season with an epic showdown between two local legend contenders. As I say in the intro to this podcast episode, we love folklore and legends at Tea’s Weird Week. There’s so many small towns across the country that have some story about a monster lurking in the forest, creeping a country lane, or swimming in the local pond. For many of these towns, their monster story is their main claim to fame– consider, for example, Mothman– who has made Point Pleasant, West Virginia a tourist destination.
This episode talks about the Hodag, monster celebrity of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and the Snallygaster of Fredrick County, Maryland.
I’m very well familiar with the Hodag. My parents took me to Rhinelander during a trip “Up North,” just so I could see photos and a sculpture of the monster in the Lumberjack Museum and they got me a t-shirt and a plush Hodag. People are still make a pilgrimage to Rhinelander to get souvenirs, as I found when I talked to Ben Brunell, proprietor of the Hodag Store (thehodagstore.com) for this episode. But what the heck is a Hodag? Well, I wrote an entry on it for my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press) and here’s an excerpt:
Perhaps the most uniquely Wisconsin monster in this list is the Hodag, a fearsome animal with giant horns, fangs, and a row of spines down its back. It’s frightening and yet also a sign of civic pride in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where the Hodag story originates.
The Hodag, I hate to spoil so quickly, was a hoax. It was created by one of Wisconsin history’s most colorful characters, Eugene Shepard, who worked in the timber industry as a land surveyor and later in life ran a resort near Rhinelander. He hung around lumberjack camps, and as you might recall from the last chapter, claims to be the originator of Paul Bunyan folklore. He was an early circulator of the tall tales, but taking his word on anything would be hard to do as he was also a well known practical joker.
Among his many pranks were fooling people at a resort he ran into believing he had a unique, rare breed of scented moss on the property (which was regular moss doused in perfume) and a fake muskie he had rigged up to leap out of the water to entice guests into taking fishing trips. He liked to enlist a friend to pinch people’s legs on public transportation while he imitated a growling dog to fool them into thinking they had been bitten. To be in Shepard’s vicinity was to be a practical joke victim in waiting.
Shepard’s hoax with the longest-lasting impact began in 1893 when he claimed he had encountered a Hodag, a beast based on lumberjack folklore. A Hodag, lumberjacks believed, was the ghost of a disgruntled ox. In 1896, Shepard claimed he had captured the beast (by putting chloroform at the end of a long pole and knocking the monster unconscious). Several other details about the life of the Hodag were embellished and reported by Shepard and others—the Hodag preferred to dine on white bulldogs, for example, or that its young were delivered from a set of 13 eggs.
While scrolling through Instagram, I discovered the American Snallygaster Museum and was delighted by the story. The Snallygaster is a weird bird/octopus/dragon hybrid– depictions have varied slightly, some show it with one eye or three eyes, tentacles on it’s mouth or body, etc. The legend came with German immigrants who settled in Frederick County, Maryland. It’s not a story as well known as the Hodag or Mothman, but Sarah Cooper, creator of the American Snallygaster Museum (snallygastermuseum.com) is hoping to change that. She’s assembled art and other artifacts that’s she’s been displaying as a pop-up, but is working on a permanent location.
The Hodag Store and the American Snallygaster Museum– two spots to add to your monster road trip!
Tea’s Weird Week, S2, Ep02: Hodag vs Snallygaster: In addition to talking to Ben Brunell (Hodag Store) and Sarah Cooper (American Snallygaster Museum), me and Heidi had a lot of catching up to do on weird news– Miss Information is back with a trivia question (answer to win fabulous prizes), and we close the episode out with a beautiful track from Mere of Light, “Moon from a Well.” Additional music: “Mecha vs Titan” by Kaijusonic/T.Reed/ Tao X Productions and “Demon Business” by Android138.
Check out my books:
There was no Tea’s Weird Week column last week and it’s because I hit a wall and just could not write at all. Not in the least bit. It was the first time there was an unplanned skip in this weekly column.
It’s strange cause the week started off great– my friend’s at Lion’s Tooth, a wonderful new bookstore in Milwaukee, had me in to sign more copies of my book American Madness. They told me it’s selling pretty well there, so I was happy to visit, sign their stock, and pick up a few books and a t-shirt for myself. (Keep it rolling, order from them here: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/ ) Good stuff.
But the next day, Monday, I had a deadline for two short articles. If you don’t know me outside of my “weird” work, I freelance for some local publications here in Milwaukee on a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to) art, music, food/drink, local businesses, performance art, comedy, interviews with local people doing interesting things. Freelancing, like anything, has advantages and disadvantages. I really enjoy getting out to meet new creative people, learn about new things, and see some behind the scenes stuff. I’ve never had to write a story that I didn’t want to work on. That said, freelancing is often a roll of the dice and sometimes stressful and frustrating.
Anyway, two short articles– super easy! I could open up two laptops and type both these suckers out at the same time! But for some unknown reason, it really burned me out. A couple other small things happened– nothing terrible, nothing earth shattering, but the combination of a few irritations and failures made me incredibly bitter, mentally exhausted, and in serious doubt that I have any legit skill or talent by Tuesday evening. I looked at my writing projects in development– there’s about 5– and I just saw wheels spinning, kicking up dirt. What a long week…wait, it’s Tuesday?…ah shit. Non-fiction writer’s block is different than the fiction version, but it is a thing.
I didn’t have any other deadlines on the horizon, so I decided to choose the best possible option for that particular time and place I was in, which was to fuck off for the rest of the week. This is not something I do often, but I got to tell you, sometimes you need to use a well placed FUCK IT.
Writing is a tough business. There’s quite a few people I’ve met who have given up on the writing thing because of the painful, intimidating gauntlet of rejection– the cold, uncaring void that will drain the pages right out of you, the struggle to find the right words. My experience has been that writing is a practice of love, pain, humility, patience, fun, grief, the highs of accomplishment, the lows of self-doubt, and much more.
I make a lot lists to keep my writing on track, but I threw them all out last week. I sure as hell didn’t do any writing. I cleaned my office, I planted some seedlings, I went for walks and thought about life, I did the dishes, I had some drinks and watched some TV. On Monday, I got moving again– slowly. It was time to get back into the game. I guess, for better or worse, I’m a writer.
Here is my 2 cent writing advice– you will want to quit, you will think you suck, you will want to burn it. Don’t. When you hit a wall, take a break if you need to, but don’t give up– dig under it, climb over it, bounce off of it, crash through it like the Kool-Aid Man. Oh yeaaaah!
Looking forward to future projects/ events really helps me not give up. Here’s some positive things coming up for me:
–Tea’s Weird Week podcast, season 2– soon, working on it. Should be back in a couple weeks. Check out the podcast page for links to season 1 on your favorite podcast platforms: https://teakrulos.com/teas-weird-week-podcast-4/
-Milwaukee Press Club Awards– I’m one of the finalists in the “short hard news” category, they’ll be announcing in a virtual event May 19 whether I got the gold, silver, or bronze. I’m honored to be nominated.
–Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories & Sketches is a collection of short stories I wrote about a greasy spoon/drugstore I worked at in my youth. It’ll be out next year from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.
-Like I said, I got several writing projects in development, though nothing sold or on deadline yet. We’ll see what happens with all that.
With that, I’m going to move on to some hopefully wall-free writing while I’m still “on.”
Check out my books:
The Tea’s Weird Week podcast is on “vacation” as we’re trying to catch up on ideas for future podcast episodes as well as getting our Patreon rolling– check it out, lots of very cool perks at a number of affordable levels: www.patreon.com/teasweirdweek
This week I just thought I’d share a pretty crazy story I ran into while doing some light research. Like other authors, I always have a few irons in the fire– I’m working on developing a couple of non-fiction book ideas, as well as a couple of fiction ones. I’m not sure what is going to be completed first (if completed at all) or what might roll out when, but one of these fiction manuscripts is a horror novel that includes a plot involving sleep paralysis and sleep deprivation.
I was looking into the latter when I found the story of Peter Tripp, a top 40 DJ who decided to be involved with a publicity stunt. He agreed to DJ live on WMGM (where he had a show called “Your Hits of the Week”) for 200 hours (a little over 8 days) straight without sleep from a glass DJ booth in Times Square (so people could go and see him, like a sleep deprived fish in an aquarium) as a fundraiser for March of Dimes. This “Wake-A-Thon” was in late January, 1959.
It was somewhere around 120 hours into the “Wake-A-Thon” that Tripp went from extremely drowsy to beginning to lose his damn mind. He suffered from hallucinations– at one point he began to see spiders crawling out of his shoes and mice and kittens scurrying around his feet inside the studio. He had a hotel room next door where he could freshen up and there he hallucinated flames shooting out of a dresser drawer. In another instance he believed a scientist sent to observe him was an undertaker after his body, so he ran out of the studio into Times Square and had to wrangled back in. He grew paranoid of the scientists who were observing him and thought they were in league against him, trying to poison him. He had difficulty reciting the alphabet.
The scientists monitored Tripp’s brain waves and found that his hallucination freak outs mirrored the 90 minute REM cycles he brain would experience if he was asleep, so his brain was dreaming while he was awake. The last 60 hours or so were only maintained by an administered stimulant. After he hit 200 hours, he crashed out– he reportedly slept 13 hours, 13 minutes.
Like any bad idea, the “Wake-a-Thon” craze spread to other DJs looking to duplicate Tripp’s publicity. Dozens of DJs attempted to beat Tripp’s record in 1959 and into the 60s.
Poor Peter Tripp! As one report notes, “it is often reported that the sleep-deprivation marathon had a long-term effect on his personality.” Tripp view himself as an “imposter,” what I’m interpreting to mean something like a Twin Peaks doppelganger. His marriage (one of four) fell apart shortly after the Wake-a-Thon. The next year, he was also hit for being part of the “payola” scandal, where DJs received money for playing certain songs to make them a hit. His radio DJ career drifted around California and ended up in Ohio before he quit the biz in 1967. He died in 2000 at age 73.
Now I think I’ll go take a nap.
Inglis-Arkell, Esther. “The Sleep Deprivation Publicity Stunt That Drove One Man Crazy,” Gizmodo.com.
tenwatts.blogspot.com, “DJ Marathon Stay-Awake Records.”
Rolls, Geoff. “The Men Who Didn’t Sleep: Peter Tripp and Eric Gardner,” chapter from Classic Case Studies in Psychology.
And this short doc:
You can find the Tea’s Weird Week podcast here: https://teakrulos.com/teas-weird-week-podcast-4/
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In this age of QAnon, we’ve seen the most outlandish conspiracies spread on the Internet. Just to mention a few– “mole children” being held captive underneath Central Park, prisoners of the “Deep State” to be used in sex trafficking and to harvest their “adrenochrome” by the same sinister cabal that brought you Pizzagate. There was also the theory that Wayfair was delivering child sex slaves in their furniture. On March 4, the “real inauguration” of Trump was supposed to take place. Recently, there’s been a conspiracy that Joe Biden is either a deepfake or is just pretending to be president in front of a greenscreen.
And now the news of the day– a cargo ship getting stuck sideways in the Suez Canal is the latest to have a thumbtack and long piece of yard attached to it. This theory stars QAnon’s ultimate boss bad guy Hillary Clinton.
The first and longest running conspiracy involving Hill and Bill is the “Clinton Body Count.” I love the title of that conspiracy because I imaging the Clintons sneaking around as a couple, killing people in person. Bill sneaks up behind someone and chokes them with his tie while Hillary whips out a shank and starts stabbing, all while some grindcore shreds in the background. Brutal!
But seriously, the theory suggests that a great number of people somehow associated with the Clintons have been killed by Clinton bankrolled hitmen. It’s like a death version of “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon”– anyone you can tie to the Clintons who has died is said to be part of the hit list.
Pizzagate was the next step of adding to the Clinton conspiracy mythology. Hillary and her people (most notably John Podesta, who was a member of Bill’s cabinet and campaign advisor to Hillary–leaked emails showing his love of pizza parties was the centerpiece of Pizzagate) were said to be the masterminds of a child sex trafficking ring operating in DC, a satanic cabal of Democrats, Hollywood elites, the fake news media, etc. that rape and eat children and get high off of their “adrenochrome.”
The darkest place these conspiracies go is a hoax called “frazzledrip.” This is supposedly the name of a snuff video that shows Hillary and her advisor Huma Abedin torturing, raping, and drinking the blood of a young girl to get high on her adrenochrome. It was supposedly leaked from the laptop of Abedin’s ex-husband Anthony Wiener, but the video does not exist on the dark web or anywhere else.
The latest QAnon nonsense suggests that this ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal is Hillary Clinton’s personal sex trafficking vehicle. That’s right, those shipping containers are filled with children heading to a Pizzagate-style ring. That’s a big claim. What’s the evidence? Well…
– The ship, the Ever Given, is owned by a Taiwanese company called Evergreen. Clinton was given the Secret Service code name “Evergreen” (Bill’s was “Eagle”).
-The Ever Given’s radio call sign is H3RC, uh oh that means Hillary Rodham Clinton.
-What’s on the boat? Shipping containers that QAnon says are full of sex trafficking victims. And maybe a lot– the ship holds up to 20,000 20 foot long containers.
-The ship’s charted course allegedly shows that it drew a dick in the Red Sea. To what end? The Qanon theory was to draw attention to the ship. As Vice reports, one Q follower posted:
“Those ships are on auto-pilot most of the time. The computers do the work. I am suggesting that the ship’s computers were hacked. My suspicions lean toward the White Hats. This was part of the plan.”
QAnon believed that the ship had purposely been grounded so the world could see the shipping containers being opened, the sex trafficking victims released and Hillary Clinton exposed for the satanic pedophile cannibal/ shipping magnate that she was. That, of course, didn’t happen.
Why would someone who is running a human trafficking ring leave clues as to their identity behind? Do people actually believe this shit? They sure do, and it’s led to a social epidemic of unhinged violence.
The biggest incident was the Jan. 6 insurrection, which had a large contingency of QAnon believers. But there’s been a few examples over the last month. On March 15, a man drove a car covered with spray-painted Q slogans (like “wwg1wga” which means “where we go one, we go all.”) to a National Guard.
And here’s the latest person to snap from conspiracy– a person named Benjamin Orion Carlson Kohlman went on an early morning rampage earlier on March 30, setting three Vancouver area masonic lodges on fire. The Freemasons have long been a part of conspiracy lore as a secret organization that controls the world. He escaped an altercation with a police officer and posted on his social media that he had “just cleaned three satanic clubhouses and nobody could do anything,” there was no QAnon connection reported, but other posts promoted 9/11 and Flat Earth conspiracies, and a post from 2018 showed an image of a masonic hall with text that read “Masons meet secretly to plan the truth they want you to see.” Source: CTV News
Conspiracy continues to beget violence.
SEE ALSO: The new HBO documentary Q: Into the Storm documents the origins of QAnon and how it evolved from a dark corner of the Internet to the mainstream.
In the opening sequence of Q: Into the Storm, the documentary maker talks about not being able to see an owl without thinking about Moloch; if you want to know the origins of all that, as well an intro to QAnon and many examples of how conspiracy thinking is dangerous, please do check out my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness. You’ll find similarities– arson, Freemasons– to this latest story out of Vancouver.
Tea’s Weird Week, episode 12: I talk more about this column and the future of this podcast in the “Please Clap Dept.” Me and Heidi talk about a zombie rabies strain (plus the zombie-vampire political study), a plague doctor stalking Scotland, the saga of Salmon Dream, the worst T-shirt ever, and a sewer mystery. Plus trivia with Miss Information, and we close out with a track from our sound engineer, Android138, “The Dreams that we Dare to Dream.”
You can listen here: Tea’s Weird Week episode 12: Conspiracy on the Suez Canal (podbean.com)
Well now, the nice weather is starting to breeze in. What’s an idyllic summer day? Sitting on a dock with a bucket full of ice and beer, listening to The Ramones and scanning a lake with a pair of binoculars, hoping to spot a Lake Monster? Sounds good to me.
In 2015 I had a book published titled Monster Hunters, which documented my adventures hanging out with people looking for evidence of ghost, UFOs, and cryptids (unknown entities of cryptozoology like Bigfoot, Chupacabras, etc.) In the early planning of the book, I knew there were several experiences I wanted to have and one was most definitely getting out on a Lake Monster expedition.
The most famous Lake Monster of all, of course is the Loch Ness Monster aka Nessie, a childhood favorite of mine. In fact, while backpacking through the UK and Ireland in the year 2000, I convinced my travel partner that we should head into the Highlands so we could check out Loch Ness. We stayed at a hostel in the town of Drumnadrochit, a hotspot of Nessie tourism, so we could go to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition and visited Urquhart Castle, which rested on the shore of the loch and was an area of several Nessie sightings. It was all very exciting to me and I bought as many Nessie souvenirs as I could cram in my backpack.
But I’m getting a bit off track. I was working on Monster Hunters and cryptozoology grandmaster Loren Coleman (prolific author and director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine) sent me in the direction of Champ Camp, an expedition that took place in Vermont in July of 2013. Champ is often called the American Loch Ness Monster, residing Lake Champlain, which is located between Vermont, New York, and Quebec. I signed up and set up camp with the cryptozoologists in Button Bay State Park in Vermont.
It was really a fun experience, a weekend filled with canoe trips, campfires, talking to Champ eyewitnesses, and visiting Champ landmarks. I wrote all about it in a chapter of Monster Hunters titled “Lake Monster Fever.” On the latest Tea’s Weird Week podcast, I caught up with one of the investigators I met on the trip, Scott Mardis, an extremely dedicated researcher who probably has more knowledge of Lake Monster and Sea Serpent cases in all of the 7 Seas.
Scott actually moved from Alabama to Vermont in the 90s so he could be closer to Lake Champlain and have time for hands on investigation into Champ. Scott says he believes he might have spotted the creature while Champ-watching in 1994. He eventually moved to Florida, where he investigates Florida cases– most recently he’s been paddling down the Saint John’s River looking for a creature nicknamed “Pinky.” But he does get back to Lake Champlain on a regular basis, trying to investigate every summer. This year he’s working on setting up a summer expedition with a new organization he’s a part of called the Lake Champlain Zoological Inquiry. Will they find definitive evidence of Champ? We’ll see.
Here are just a few pieces that Scott says are classic examples of Champ evidence:
What do you think? (Comment on this post). Nessie and Champ are far from the only Lake Monster tales, it seems like every body of water bigger than a swimming pool has some sort of lore about it. Lake Monsters and Sea Serpents have been spotted around the world and these are an ancient fear. A famous historical story is the much feared Kraken, which sailors feared would rip apart their ships. A few more well known North American examples include Ogopogo (spotted in Lake Okanagan in British Columbia), Flathead Lake Monster (of Montana), and the Lake Erie Monster aka South Bay Bessie, spotted in Ohio and Michigan. Here in Wisconsin there’s quite a legacy of historical monster sightings, from Lake Michigan to Rock Lake to Lake Geneva. Last week I talked in my column/ podcast about researcher Chad Lewis, check out his book Lake Monsters of Wisconsin.
So there you go– pack up your binoculars, hydrophones, underwater cameras, biopsy darts, giant nets, your copy of The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep, and a six pack– it’s Lake Monster season! I’ll send you a postcard:
Please Clap Dept.: I am a winner of a Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Award in the “Short Hard News Feature” category for an article I wrote for Milwaukee Magazine in 2020, “Reporting Live from the Street.” I’ll find out in May if it won gold, silver, or bronze, but I’m honored just to be in the top 3. The articles are judged by other press clubs around the country.
Tea’s Weird Week episode 11: I talk more with Scott Mardis about his studies of Champ and other Lake Monsters, then me and Heidi talk about AI pickup lines, a ghost grabbin’ VR game, a major shrinkage problem, and Joe Biden–fact or faked? Miss Information has a new trivia question and we close out with a track by Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra, “You Married a Sea Serpent.”
Last year I had a title released called Wisconsin Legends & Lore (History Press). I tried to collect a good mix from Wisconsin’s rich history of storytelling. One of my favorite parts was talking about urban legends from around the state. Urban legends are stories spun, usually about a creepy location, and people (usually young folks) get a frightened thrill daring, or even worse– double dog daring— someone to do something frightening. In Muskego, Wisconsin, there was a dare to drive down Mystic Lane late at night to look for Haunchyville, supposedly a community of angry little people that will attack you if you dare cross over into their turf. If you park your car on Bloody Bride Bridge in Stevens Point, local lore says you can look in your rearview mirror and see the Bloody Bride sitting in your back seat. These stories of looking in mirrors and chanting names, picking up phantom hitchhikers, and encountering monsters, witches, and psycho killers on back roads can be found all over the country. The stories vary slightly, but the premise is often the same.
One person well equipped to track these stories down is prolific researcher, lecturer, and author Chad Lewis. Chad has authored and co-authored books like The Road Guide to Haunted Locations series, Lake Monsters of Wisconsin, the Hidden Headlines series, and many more. Although he’s been all over the world, much of his work focuses on the Midwest. He grew up in Eau Claire (which is in Wisconsin, but close to Minnesota) and currently lives near the Madison area.
Chad admits his favorite part of writing isn’t the long hours spent staring at a screen, scrutinizing grammar, but rather the thrill of the open road, discovering new places, hearing new stories. That’s what makes Supernatural Dares of the Midwest: Curses, Monsters, and Ghosts such a perfect project for him. He’s no armchair expert– he bravely got out there and tried every dare in the book for himself.
“I pride myself that every place that I write about or lecture about, I’ve actually visited for myself. That’s just the way it works for me, I have to be there. With the dares it was important that I tried them all. I joke in the book that there’s only one that I failed at doing and that’s because many claim it doesn’t exist,” Chad told me in an interview for the Tea’s Weird Week podcast. “That dare is if you check out a certain book from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater library, you will go crazy and either die or kill yourself. The reason I failed is because the book apparently does not exist. The library has told me year after year they don’t have it, which is exactly what you’d expect sneaky librarians to say to you,” Chad laughed. He’s referring to an urban legend that the UW-Whitewater library has an ancient magic Book of Shadows locked up somewhere, part of the greater witch lore of Whitewater, which was called Second Salem because they had a Spiritualist school there in the late 1800s.
Chad traveled around Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois seeking stories of cursed gravestones, portals to Hell, and country lanes said to be stomping grounds of monsters, eventually compiling about 40 supernatural dares for his book.
But why do we do it? Why do we scare each other into these frightening experiences of potentially coming face-to-face with the ghost of Old Man Weary or a pack of Hellhounds?
“I think there’s many aspects to it,” Chad tells me. “One, it feels good. Believe it or not, fear can make you feel good. Once your mind realizes you’re probably not in any physical sort of danger, your body is still rushing your organs with chemicals, the same stuff you get from happiness, sex, excitement– it feels good, the endorphins rush through.”
The dares also give people a chance to have their own mini hero’s journey.
“I think a lot of people are looking for that test of bravery amongst there peers, especially high school and college age kids. If they can walk down a cursed marsh road with a Goatman there and not bat an eye, they get a boost of self esteem and are seen in a higher light in their peers’ eyes, so I think the social aspect plays into it, too,” Chad says.
Last but not least– a thrill in a cookie cutter, boring landscape.
“On a deeper level I think people like doing it cause when you start traveling the country, you see that a lot of the cities look the same– the same restaurants, hotels, gas stations,” Chad explains. “So people are looking for that uniqueness, that strangeness that can only be found in your area.”
As Chad says, I love these stories and I think they’re an important part of our cultural landscape, our own modern folklore.
You can pre-order Chad’s book and check out his other work at: chadlewisresearch.com
Tea’s Weird Week podcast, episode 11: I talk more with Chad Lewis about his career as a researcher into the unknown and some of the supernatural dares he encountered working on his new book. Plus me and Heidi read some of the dumb things our listeners did on a dare and discuss mask enforcing luchadores, a Joker-themed candidate in Japan, Amityville, crystal ball safety, sperm samples on the moon, and more. Miss Information reveals trivia answers, an Irish jig inspired track from Sunspot, and we close with Ratbatspider‘s track about the Haunchyville urban legend, “Keep This Short.”
My book Apocalypse Any Day Now came out in 2019. It’s about preppers and also different aspects of “apocalypse culture.” Working on the book is something I’ve thought about a lot while stuck inside sitting on my couch in this last pandemic year. One particularly memorable adventure while working on the book was taking an epic road trip out to Kansas with my friend Paul Kjelland to take a tour of the Luxury Survival Condos, a high end doomsday bunker built underground in a former Atlas F missile silo. After some back and forth emailing the condo developer, Larry Hall, he agreed to spare us some time to show us around in September 2017.
In this week’s Tea’s Weird Week podcast episode, I tell the story of the tour, some new perspective on the facility a year into the pandemic, and share some audio clips from the 3 hour plus tour we took. To pair with that audio, I thought I’d share some pictures– a few of these were featured in Apocalypse Any Day Now, but several haven’t been seen before. All these pictures were taken by Paul.
Literally middle America– Larry told us the Luxury Survival Condos, located in the middle of a corn field in Kansas, is about dead center of the continental United States if you were measuring west to east coast, northern to southern border.
After we were admitted through a barbed wired perimeter by a security guard, we entered through the condo’s blast doors– each door weighs eight tons of armored steel filled with concrete,
There’s a ramp that leads from the blast door area into the main condo complex and the hall is decorated with photos showing the construction process. Pointing one of these out is condo developer Larry Hall.
The swimming pool– not a typical doomsday bunker amenity. The facility has three 25,000 gallon tanks and a heavy filtration system.
Here I am taking advantage of the photo op after the waterfalls were activated. You can hear audio of this exact moment in the Tea’s Weird Week podcast this week: Episode 9: Doomsday Bunkers of the Rich and Famous (Revisited).
The lowest level of the structure, Level 15, has the movie theater, a $250, 000 room which has a state of the art projector (and a popcorn machine). We watched a clip of The Avengers down here. It was as high a quality (and maybe even better) than your typical movie experience. I haven’t been to a movie theater in over a year, by the way, and I really miss it.
I also really miss hanging out at bars– next door to the movie theater is the Flying Ace Lounge. We did not do shots down there– there was no booze stocked.
I thought this market level was one of the most interesting features of the survival condo. Instead of a simple food storage room, it’s set up as a miniature grocery store, complete with shopping carts so people can leave their units and have the experience of walking around, socializing and “shopping,” a sense of normalcy.
Another shot of a row of canned food in “Ship’s Store.”
Some of the tanks that will be used to breed tilapia and other fish in the giant hydroponics room, located in the former missile command center.
More tanks in the hydroponics room for growing plants.
In another rec area, we were shown this dog park, a place to take Fido when they have to go– the astroturf filters pee and the toilet in the background is for solid waste.
Another park of this rec area has a rock climbing wall, ping pong, foosball, and video games.
Part of the gym level.
Here’s half of a level that’s a library/reading lounge. The other half is a small classroom area that could accomodate maybe a dozen or so students at a time. As you can see, there wasn’t too much on the shelves when we visited. I did noticed Frank Herbert’s entire Dune saga was there, so that’s something.
This is inside one of the actual condo unit’s bedroom, 8 floors underground. Note the LED fake window next to Larry, designed to trick the brain that it is seeing outside on ground level.
The security control room, with monitors in all the common areas as well as the perimeter.
This room, the armory (or as I call it, the “fuck around and find out room”), unlike the library or bar, was well stocked. There’s a gun for every occasion in here as well as a stockpile of ammo and non lethal weapons.
This is how thick the silo’s walls are.
The different levels were a mix of “space hotel” clashing with “dystopian industrial.”
This is a lounge area with TVs, games, and a small kitchen. We sat down here to do an interview after the tour. You can find out how that went in Apocalypse Any Now and/or in the Tea’s Weird Week podcast!
Tea’s Weird Week podcast episode 09: Hear more of my thoughts on the Luxury Survival Condo experience, as well as some audio clips from the tour. Then me and Heidi discuss strange news including reports of Irish fae folk, glow-in-the-dark sharks, a catnip dispensary, a noise music confrontation, superpower reward money, and a bathroom mirror opens a portal to a creepy hidden apartment. Plus your last chance to win at trivia and we close out with a track by Alaska’s Eternal Cowboys, “Used Dreams.”
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week episode 09: Doomsday Bunkers of the Rich and Famous (Revisited) (podbean.com)
Check out my books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now (there is a print, ebook, and audio version!): www.amazon.com/Apocalypse-Any-Day-Now-Underground/dp/161373641X/ref=sr_1_1
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness: bookshop.org/books/american-madness-the-story-of-the-phantom-patriot-and-how-conspiracy-theories-hijacked-american-consciousness/9781627310963
Tea’s Weird Week: 2020 Review (e-book): https://www.amazon.com/Teas-Weird-Week-2020-Review-ebook/dp/B08SGL97YJ/ref=sr_1_1
“System is Normal.”