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Tea’s Weird Week: The Story of the Great Roswell Debate of 2016

Mark O’ Connell (left) and Donald R. Schmitt at the Roswell Debate, Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2016. Photos by Wendy Schreier Photography.

In 2015 I was really hyped about the release of my second book, Monster Hunters: On the Trail with Ghost Hunters, Bigfooters, Ufologists, and Other Paranormal Investigators (Chicago Review Press). Writing the book had been a blast– I had travelled around to meet investigators and go on Lake Monster and Bigfoot expeditions, went to a UFO conference, and spent several long nights trying to detect evidence of ghosts, among other adventures.

As I was thinking of book promotion, I had this light bulb moment– why not create an event that would showcase my work, fill a niche, and be hella fun? I could invite some of the people I had met while working on the book as guest speakers! I knew a ton of cool artists that could be vendors! I found a venue– the Irish Heritage and Cultural Center, located in an old (probably haunted) church that didn’t cost an insane amount to rent out. I was all in.

I started to assemble a line-up of speakers and turned to people I had met in my research like Noah Leigh (founder of the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee) and Allison Jornlin (founder of American Ghost Walks) for suggestions on potential guest speakers. We had a good line-up of speakers on cryptozoology as well as ghost experts– but I wanted some UFO talks. Two of the suggestions were Donald R. Schmitt and Mark O’ Connell.

While doing research for Monster Hunters, I had encountered Schmitt– I had seen him give a talk at the International UFO Congress in Arizona and realized I had probably read one of his books about the Roswell UFO crash in the 90s– as a teen I had been on a kick reading about UFOs, as teens tend to do. You might call Don “The Roswell Guy” as he’s written several books on the subject. I had no idea Schmitt was from Wisconsin and thought, wow, that’s cool, so I contacted him and he agreed to give a talk about Roswell.

I was also told that Wisconsin was home (at the time) to a writer named Mark O’ Connell, who had penned scripts for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine and was working on a biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, astronomer and pioneer of UFO studies. I thought, wow, that’s also cool, and I contacted him and he agreed to give a presentation on Wisconsin UFO cases. So now I had a great conference lineup of ghost researchers, Bigfooters, a Goatman expert, a panel that I was going to moderate, and the UFO talks and I started to post info about them online.

I got a polite email from Mark saying that he saw that Don was going to be at the event and that he did not really get along with him, so he wanted to prevent an awkward situation– for example putting them on a panel together. I didn’t find this to be too unusual– while working on Monster Hunters I had encountered many paranormal beefs. I spoke to a member of a ghost investigation group almost entirely composed of ex-members of a different group. I learned about Bigfooters who hated each other with a big, hairy passion. There are many rivalries in all the paranormal fields. I responded to Mark and told him that they would not cross paths. I still don’t know exactly what their dispute was about, but it had something to do with the J. Allen Hynek research (I think, don’t quote me on it).

The day of the conference was exhilarating and all kind of a blur. I was (at times literally) running around making sure things were running smoothly. We had a good crowd. There had not been any sort of paranormal themed conference in Milwaukee for over ten years and we got a good reception. Don was the last speaker of the day, and by this point I could take a breath and grab a beer (this is Wisconsin, where people drink anywhere and everywhere and the Irish Center’s bar was busy all day). I walked into the main room of the Irish Center to see how Don’s talk was going over. I looked up at the second floor balcony of the room, and noticed that Mark and his wife were sitting there, watching Don. Well, well, I thought. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Or something like that.

The after party was at Shaker’s Cigar Bar (probably haunted) and I sat down and had a drink with Mike Huberty, Allison Jornlin’s brother and organizer of American Ghost Walks. Mike had really saved my ass that day, as I am all thumbs with technology, but he is a mix-master, so he got things up and running on the main stage. We somehow got on the topic of Don and Mark and Mike made the joke that they should get up on stage and debate each other. We laughed about it.

Inspired by the success of the 2015 event I decided to do the conference again and to GO BIG in 2016. I’m not ashamed now to say that I got in over my head. Too big, too fast. I decided to do a 2-day event, switching the location to facilities at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. There was so much going on– 2 speaker rooms, a workshop room, a vendor floor, a livestreamed media table, a paranormal sound booth, there were guests like Loren Coleman and Katrina Weidman being flown in, a VIP dinner party, a film screening session. I knew the enormity of the task and began planning in September 2015, a bit over a year from the October 2016 event.

That’s me in the middle with cryptozoologist Loren Coleman (left) and paranormal investigator Katrina Weidman, MPC 2016 VIP dinner party.

The 2016 conference took over my life, I lost a shit ton of money that I didn’t have, and afterward I sank into a depression that stretched through the rest of that fall and winter. But I’m getting off track. I started lining up guests and emailed Don about returning as a guest speaker. His reply was quite intriguing and included this sentence: “I would be willing if it could also include a debate between me and Mark O’ Connell over Roswell.”

Whaaaaaaaat.

Of course I was into the idea. Conference programming can sometimes be dry and dull, so this was an exciting proposal. I also really believe that debate is a valuable skill and that society would be better off if more people learned how to think critically and present arguments. I emailed Mark and he said he was “very interested” as long as acceptable terms were established. Game on! Now I just needed to figure out how to properly run a debate.

After some searching I found David Henning, Director of Debate and Forensics at Lakeland College in Plymouth, Wisconsin. His credentials were impeccable and he was not involved at all in the world of paranormal research and as such was an impartial moderator.

David received, as many innocent people have over the years, a very strange email from me requesting help. I was thrilled when he replied that he was willing to establish debate rules and moderate. David gave me a couple of debate formats that might work and we agreed on one that would total 60 minutes with an additional 15 minutes for questions from the audience. Each speaker would have a 3-minute opening statement, followed by six topic questions with each speaker given 2-3 minutes response and alternating debaters given a 1 minute rebuttal.

David explained to me that “this format forces debaters to focus on word economy and clear, concise issue analysis.” (gavel cracks) Sounds good to me. The questions were to be shared ahead of time so the debaters could prepare. I’ve done a lot of non-fiction writing, everything from short blurbs to books, and a key ingredient is usually asking the right people the right questions, so I racked my brain on topics. But I had time, after discussion with all parties we determined it would fair to give the debaters questions one month before the debate to prepare. I put the debate aside and worked on the hundreds of other details of the conference that needed to be attended to.

Fast forward to September 2016, a month before the conference. I assemble the questions, like “Is it time for UFOlogy to move on from the Roswell event?” and “What impact has the Roswell Slides had on UFOlogy? Has it damaged credibility in the UFO field?” To explain that last question, Don had been involved in revealing photos that had been found on slides in a case that had been sitting in an attic for decades. One appeared to show an extra-terrestrial corpse, and the photo date was 1947, the same years as the alleged Roswell crash. Upon being revealed, researchers were able to deblur a placard in the image and discovered that the photo was of the mummified remains of a child that were on display at a museum.

The Roswell Slide

Don replied that he felt the questions were “slanted” against him. I replied that I was glad to talk to him about suggestions on changes to the wording, but he replied “Let’s go with what you have. No problems.” At this point I didn’t have time to ask twice– I was being bombarded with questions about the conference day and night.

My next message from Don said that in lieu of his 3-minute opening statement, he wants to show a video instead. This new twist was unusual, so I turned to David Henning for his opinion– he was the expert after all. David was inclined to reject the video idea entirely, but after some discussion was agreeable to it if all parties involved can view the video. Don wasn’t happy. When I told him David’s determination, he replied:

“Why don’t I send you all my answers as well? Is this a debate or a scripted reality show? I have participated in many debates through the years and have never been asked to provide my playbook before the game.”

This made me wonder what the hell does he have on video that was so secretive and important? Did he hire a private eye to tail Mark and capture some salacious indiscretion? Did he have actual film of the Roswell aliens? In any case, I had a sinking feeling that the debate was probably off.

After several days of back and forth, Don relented and sent me his video opening statement. I paused what I was working on to check out the video and it was… a clip from a George Carlin stand-up routine?! One of the classics where Carlin is angry and speaking out against the club we’re not a part of– the corporations, the fucking government. I use the F-bomb here because George uses a variation of it six times in this clip, but in the video Don gives me all the profanities are muted out. (Remember that detail.) You can see the exact clip right here (and yes I did title it “George Carlin Reveals the Secret Plot to Cover Up the Roswell UFO Crash.”)

I was quite baffled. This is what all the drama was about? I guess the video message was that “they” were covering up Roswell and that Mark was complicit in it? I can only speculate, but I think Don thought if he could surprise everyone with this clip that Carlin’s ranting would throw Mark off, unnerving him. Maybe in the same way chess master Bobby Fisher would try to throw his stoic Russian opponents off by demanding the room be rearranged, the lighting changed, and by making erratic movements on the chessboard.

As moderator, David was not happy with this twist as he thought Don was just trying to turn the debate into a “farce.” Mark was puzzled, but ok with the video, except for his concern that Don would swap the video out at the last second with something else and wondered if we had a killswitch in the event this happened. I assured him that we would be playing the video Don sent and wouldn’t allow him to switch it out.

As it turns out, Mark’s suspicion wasn’t unfounded. Right before the debate, Don approached Mike Huberty, who once again was helping us with A/V stuff, and handed him a jumpdrive, asking him to play the video on it as his opening statement. Mike knew something was up, and already had the original video cued up and ready to go, so he just played that. Afterward, Mike handed me the jumpdrive and explained what happened. The evidence sat in my pocket over the hectic weekend, but when it was all over, I popped the drive into my laptop to see what Don had intended to swap his ringer with. And it was…the exact same video, uncensored. It looked like Don’s secret plan was to try to rattle Mark with colorful fucking language.

The debate itself went well, I thought. After the strange video open, Mark and Don were both well-spoken, interesting, and followed David’s format, ceding to his gavel when time was up. After answering questions submitted by the audience, they shook hands and parted ways.

But you can make the determination of who had a better argument for yourself. Here’s an audio recording of the entire debate. It starts right after the two debaters were introduced: Tea‘s Weird Week Special: The Roswell Debate, Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, 2016 (podbean.com)

The Roswell Debate concludes: Mark O’ Connell (left) shakes hands with Donald Schmitt. Debate moderator David Henning is in the middle. Photo by Wendy Schreier Photography.

It took me 5 years to write about this, I think, because I needed some distance from it. Personally, 2016 was a pretty bad, painful year for me. The whole conference was stressful, and trying to negotiate the Roswell Debate was part of that stress. I’m having a really good year in 2021, so I think that now I can reflect. Here’s my thoughts on the Roswell Debate years later…what a goddamn strange thing that was, from beginning to end! But I’m so glad it happened. It was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a debate between two guys who have made really interesting writing careers related to the topic of UFOs, so thank you Don and Mark for participating, and to David for answering my weird invitation to moderate. I will always remember it, fondly now, as a wild and crazy chapter of my life.

Post-script: Mark O’Connell’s book, The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs came out in 2017. Donald Schmitt’s latest title in Roswell: The Ultimate Cold Case (co-authored with Thomas J. Carey).

The Milwaukee Paranormal Conference is happening Sept. 24-26 at various locations. There are no debates planned this year. More info can be found here: Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Returns Sept. 24-26, 2021 | Milwaukee Paranormal Conference (milwaukeeparacon.com)

The Tea’s Weird Week podcast returns with Season 3 next week! We’re kicking things off with an interview with Lyle Blackburn– author, musician, lecturer and narrator of the new documentary Skinwalker: Howl of the Rougarou.

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Check out my latest books:

American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)

Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)


Tea’s Weird Week: UFOs Over Long Lake, Part II

Last week, I shared pictures and a link to our Tea’s Weird Week podcast featuring interviews from UFO Daze at Benson’s Hide-A-Way in Dundee, WI. We got so much material we decided to split it into a two-parter.

I have one of those crazy busy weeks this week– good stuff (in fact, expect a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT in all caps sometime soon… UPDATE: the news is that book American Madness is being developed into a documentary. More details soon.) So this week I’m going to keep it brief and share a couple quick notes about this week’s episode.

  • This episode features a short interview with writer and director Mark Borchardt, who directed a documentary titled The Dundee Project, filmed over several years at UFO Daze. It’s a great look at the characters hanging around Benson’s Hide-A-Way. Mark is planning a possible Return to Dundee doc. I’ve known Mark a few years now (he participated in the 2016 Milwaukee Paranormal Conference) and I want to tell you a great memory of him.

    I was having a really down and out day, super stressed and all that– this was maybe 4 years ago or so, and I was sitting at a bus stop near Colectivo Coffee on Humboldt Boulevard. Mark came cruising around the corner and shouted out of his window: “Tea! Tea, keep the faith, man!” And was gone. It really made my day. I kept the faith.
  • Awesome track by our podcast sound engineer, Andrew aka Android 138, “EarthSkum.” He’s very talented. Everyone who participates in the podcast– Heidi, Miss Information, all of the talented musicians, artists, and guests, are just great. I’m lucky to know you all. Check out Andrew’s music: www.soundcloud.com/android138
  • Milwaukee Paranormal Conference is Sept.24-26. Do it: Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Returns Sept. 24-26, 2021 | Milwaukee Paranormal Conference (milwaukeeparacon.com)

    Tea’s Weird Week, S2 Ep11, UFOs Over Dundee: Part 2

    Tea talks to Mark Borchardt about his documentary, The Dundee Project, plus more interviews from UFO Daze at Benson’s Hideaway. Tea and Heidi talk about the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, Welch Klingons, the latest QAnon nuttiness, and more. Plus trivia from Miss Information and a dope new track by Android138, “EarthSkum.”

    Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep11: UFOs Over Long Lake, part 2 (podbean.com)
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Check out my latest books:

American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)

Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)

Tea’s Weird Week: UFOs Over Long Lake

The Tea’s Weird Week podcast crew– myself, co-host Heidi, and sound engineer Andrew– took a short road trip to Dundee, Wisconsin to attend the 33rd annual “UFO Daze.” This is an extraterrestrial themed event at a bar called Benson’s Hide-a-Way, located on the shore of Long Lake. I loved it! This was a distinctly Wisconsin “Up North” type of UFO event– beer, brats, funny alien costumes, a tinfoil hat competition, an “Alien Juice” drink special, and people cruising on pontoons on Long Lake. In addition to locals, who were there for some day drinking fun, there was a good number of people we met who claim to have seen a UFO, been abducted by one, or even hail from a different planet themselves!

We were real happy with the trip, because one of our main goals with the podcast is to get out and see stuff like this.

The origins of UFO Daze trace back to sightings in the Dundee area– one theory speculates that there is “something” under Dundee Mountain– a hidden base? Bill Benson, proprietor of Benson’s Hide-A-Way, has spotted UFOs himself. A nearby marsh is where a mysterious crop circle was found.

When word got out that there was a podcast crew talking to people, we had no problem finding people who wanted to share their otherworldly encounters with us. In fact, we got so many interviews, we decided to turn this into a two-part podcast interview. Here are pictures we took and if you scroll to the end you’ll find a link to part one of this podcast adventure.

Andrew and Heidi in their new UFO Daze Ts interviewing some attendees.
This was an all ages event.
People enjoying UFO Daze
Benson’s Hide-A-Way is located right on the shore of Long Lake.
Me (left), Andrew (right), and special visitor (middle) inside Benson’s Hide-A-Way
Me and Heidi. Nanoo, nanoo.
Heidi kicking back in Benson’s novelty chair. “Keep Looking Up!” is the Benson motto.

Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep 10: UFOs Over Long Lake, Part 1: Tea talks to Jess Rogge, host of The Rogge Report to help make sense of the Pentagon’s preliminary report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon. Then hear Tea, Heidi, and Andrew’s interviews live at UFO Daze in Dundee. Heidi and Tea continue the discussion in the news segment, as well as reports on more conspiracy lasers, huffin’ toad venom, and an outbreak of vinegaroons in Texas! Plus Miss Information has an out-of-this-world trivia question, and we close with a track by Spud Bucket, “Fraction of a Reaction.”

Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep10: UFOS Over Long Lake, part 1 (podbean.com)
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Check out my latest books:

American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)

Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)

Tea’s Weird Week: Nick Redfern’s New Book Explores Marilyn Monroe-UFO Connection

For this week’s Tea’s Weird Week podcast I was thrilled to be able to chat with Nick Redfern, one of the most prolific authors in the paranormal field. He’s written about almost every fortean and paranormal topic you can think of– Bigfoot (The Bigfoot Book), the Men in Black (and the Women in Black), extraterrestrials (The Alien Book: A Guide to Extraterrestrials on Earth), conspiracy (The New World Order Book), sea monsters (Monsters of the Deep), Chupacabras (Chupacabra Road Trip) and so much more– Nick told me he estimates he’s written about 70 books, but with second and foreign editions that number is in flux. He’s also written hundreds of articles (he’s a frequent contributor to Mysterious Universe) and has made many appearances on TV and radio shows and in documentaries.

All of Nick’s books are of interest to me, but his latest title made me do a double-take: Diary of Secrets: UFO Conspiracies and the Mysterious Death of Marilyn Monroe explores a theory that Marilyn Monroe did not take her own life in 1962 as the “official story” states, but rather was murdered because she “knew too much” about government secrets, including UFOs. Her source? Loose pillow talk from her rumored affairs with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy. Marilyn supposedly wrote down some of these classified revelations in her secret diary– which went missing after her death.

At the center of the idea that Marilyn knew about the UFOs is a mysterious document that showed up in the 1990s and was sent to Milo Speriglio, author of Marilyn Monroe: Murder Cover-up (1982) and The Marilyn Conspiracy (1986). The document is either a well executed forgery hoax, or, I suppose, the real deal. Among the language in it is Monroe’s knowledge of a “spacecraft” crash in New Mexico.

Nick went on a road trip journey that led him to a variety of interesting interviews with people who claimed knowledge of the mysterious fate of one of America’s most well known sex symbols and pop culture icons. Like all of his work, Nick has written an interesting, entertaining, and thought provoking book. I highly recommend this as a summer read!

Art by Margot Lange

Tea’s Weird Week Season 2, episode 5, Marilyn Monroe and the UFOs: I talk more in-depth with Nick Redfern about his writing process and his book Diary of Secrets: UFO Conspiracies and the Mysterious Death of Marilyn Monroe. In the news segment, me and Heidi discuss a mysterious wave of Garfield telephones, a man swallowed by a whale, atomic honey (cool band name, huh?), magnetic flim-flam claims by Dr. Tenpenny, and more flim-flam from Ed and Lorraine Warren, the inspiration for The Conjuring movies. Plus trivia and the premiere of a brand new track by Sunspot inspired by the topic of Nick’s book, “Dear Diary.”

Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep05: Marilyn Monroe and the UFOs (podbean.com)

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Please Clap Dept.: Lynn Stevens wrote up a lengthy interview with me on my book American Madness for Maximum Rocknroll: maximumrocknroll.com/article/american-madness-by-tea-krulos

Check out my latest books:

American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)

Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)

Tea’s Weird Week: Good Weird, Bad Weird

Podcast//Facebook Group//Twitter//Instagram

I love weird stuff, I mean that should be pretty obvious. Check out the title of this column. But what is “weird?” That’s something I’ve been thinking about lately…”good weird,” the topics I enjoy learning about, researching, talking about…and “bad weird,” for example racist conspiracy theories, scam artists, people that are disrespectful and creepy.

There’s a couple things that have pushed this to the front of my mind. One, I started a Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group. Thankfully, we haven’t had the types of problems discussed in this column, but it sure is interesting to see how other people define “weird.” It’s so great to see people think of the group to post stories they run across– weird science, food, music, art, Zillow listings, pop culture, paranormal, conspiracy, and so much more. I would define some of these stories as not weird but just straight up gross or stupidity or politics as usual, but you know what? Weird is in the eye of the beholder.

The second thing that’s got me on about this is infiltration into the fields of good weird by the forces of bad weird. Last week the Tea’s Weird Week column and podcast talked to Patch O’Furr, a furry fandom reporter who uncovered an Alt-Right furry presence (bad weird) into the furry fandom (good weird). Since the January 6 Insurrection, I’ve talked to a range of media about my conspiracy research for my book American Madness and that’s because QAnon and other dangerous conspiracy beliefs have been creeping in everywhere, not just in the MAGA hordes. They’ve popped up in places as varied as UFO and other paranormal studies, the yoga and wellness communities, church groups, and punk rock scenes.

Here’s a few examples that spring to mind, in my opinion:

Good Weird: Sharing local lore of ghost stories and urban legends around a campfire. The best!
Bad Weird: Predatory psychics who prey on the grieving, claiming they can communicate with their deceased loved ones…as long as the money keeps rolling in. Also, shows like 3 Bros and a Ghost (not the actual title) that fabricate and exploit.

Good Weird: UFO reports and case studies– check out the column I wrote a few weeks ago, about a clause for UFO disclosure slipped into the last COVID relief bill. I love stories like that. The truth is out there!
Bad weird: Racist pseudoarchaeology “ancient aliens” theories that suggest cultures like the Mayans and ancient Egyptians were too “primitive” to create their famous monuments and therefore needed help from E.T.s. “Walk Like an Egyptian” outta here with that shit! Also, in this week’s Tea’s Weird Week podcast, my guests Jess Rogge and Shane Mields agreed with me that “Reptilians” are always an immediate red flag.

Good weird: Bigfoot.
Bad weird: QAnon Bigfoot. I’ve made a lot of jokes about this (and see this week’s podcast for a comedy special on the topic), because it is painfully ridiculous. But QAnon is a dangerous, destructive cult. Just look at the Jan.6 “Q d’etat” as the most explosive example.

Good weird: True crime case studies. I’m a total sucker for true crime documentaries.
Bad Weird: That line people cross when they idolize serial killers. Good, interesting documentary, sure. New role model? Uhhh…no.

It’s something to keep in mind on your path into weird topics. There’s always been problematic areas in the weird, but I’m now certainly more cognizant of this when I’m looking at people and their ideas. Ok, cool, you’re a Bigfooter. But are you a Bigfooter Bigfooter or a QAnon Bigfooter?

What are your examples of good weird or bad weird? Share in the comments on this post!

Tea’s Weird Week episode 07: I talk more about “Good Weird, Bad Weird,” with my guest panel Jess Rogge (The Rogge Report) and Shane Mields (Strange Uncles Podcast). Me and Heidi talk about paranormal investigation ethics, And yes, the legend finally had it coming…the Comedy Roast of Zorth, featuring comedians Addie Blanchard, Matthew Filipowicz, Dana Ehrmann, Greg Bach, and…Zaarg.

Plus a new trivia question and we close out the show remembering Damien Jones, who passed away in 2018, with his band Astral/Subastral‘s live performance of “To Those in Amber.” The song was recorded in 2017 as part of the Riverwest Sessions (follow on Facebook and YouTube).
Listen here: teasweirdweek.podbean.com/e/teas-weird-week-episode-07-good-weird-bad-weird/
Or on: Spotify//Soundcloud//Google Podcasts//iHeartRadio//PlayerFM//Apple//Stitcher//Pocket Cast
NEW MERCH (including Comedy Roast of Zorth design!) www.teepublic.com/user/tea-s-weird-week

Please Clap Dept.: I had a great interview with Ryan Sprague for his Somewhere in the Skies podcast. You can watch our interview about my book American Madness and conspiracy culture below.

My latest books:
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousnessbookshop.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

Tea’s Weird Week: Countdown to UFO Disclosure

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On December 21, Congress approved a COVID relief bill. It was a monster 5,593-page piece of legislation, which lawmakers only had a few hours to peruse before voting. The most talked about part of the bill was the meager $600 sum for those unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. But the bill also included funding for vaccine distribution and COVID testing, supplemented unemployment and the Paycheck Protection Program and extended the federal eviction moratorium.

And, buried, deep within it’s pages– a 180-day deadline for UFO (or Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon, a term used to try to avoid the stigma of the little green men term “UFO”) disclosure. It’s not uncommon for members of Congress to roll out the pork barrel in a big bill like this to get government funding for local projects that benefit their constituents (or lobbyists), but who had slipped in the demand for UFO disclosure? And what might we expect to see? Fortunately, I knew just the guy to talk to– author, podcast host and UFO journalist Ryan Sprague.

Still from a Department of Defense video of UFO released in 2017.

“I never thought I’d see the day this would happen, let alone in a COVID-19 relief bill. It’s been crazy,” Ryan told me. I recently spoke to Ryan for an upcoming episode of his podcast Somewhere in the Skies (he wrote a book of the same name– both are highly recommended if you’re interested in UFOs) to talk about my book American Madness, and I used the opportunity to ask some questions of my own.

Among his other projects, Ryan writes for a fairly new site called The Debrief. It isn’t specifically a UFO site, though that is one of the subjects they cover. The Debrief “covers everything from disruptive technology to emerging science, defense, aerospace, and even UFOs so that’s kind of where I came in, I’m kind of their UFO guy on the beat, covering everything to do with that,” Ryan explains. The Debrief are the ones who first broke the COVID bill/UFO disclosure story, and their reporting was quickly picked up by other media outlets.

“The story actually traces back to the 2017 New York Times article that went viral with finding out the Pentagon had a secret UFO program and that they were investigating UFOs, primarily military witness accounts,” Ryan says. “That’s when we got those three videos, gun camera footage of these UFOs that our pilots in the skies were seeing. It was a whirlwind from there– we found out that these were official Department of Defense videos that were leaked to the public by Christopher Mellon, who is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and also a former staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

Mellon began working with the former head of that secret UFO program (officially named the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program), Luis Elizondo, to study the phenomenon. They briefed members of Congress on their findings, including Senators Marco Rubio, Mark Warner, and (then Senator) Kamala Harris.

“They said we have to do something about UFOs- you guys have to take this seriously,” Ryan says. “Along with this bill being passed it was announced maybe six months ago that the Pentagon was creating a UFO task force– that’s where this bill comes in. Whatever this task force finds, they have 180 days to give a declassified release to the public.”

Ryan was also helpful in clarifying a story where media outlets have tried to connect stories A and B, which are unrelated– headlines have proclaimed that the CIA is releasing it’s UFO files, suggesting this is part of the recent disclosure clause, however, this is old news– most of these documents have been available for a decade. A key source of being able to read these files is John Greenewald’s site The Black Vault, where Greenewald has worked tirelessly to obtain files via the Freedom of Information Act.

What results can we expect to see when this 180-day deadline arrives? Will it be something truly revelatory, or just more highly redacted dead ends?

Ryan says he’s trying to be an optimist when it comes to the UFO disclosure, “but I’m also a realist and I think this is going to be kind of a let down for the really pro-UFO people, cause honestly in my opinion I don’t think the government knows much on what they’re dealing with, I think they’re just as much in the dark as a lot of citizens. They might know a little more, but I think they are just as mystified as we are as to what pilots are seeing and what people are reporting.”

Ryan also says he got discouraging words when he recently tried talking about the deadline to a Pentagon spokesperson.

“I asked, ‘what are we going to get from this thing? Anything?’ And the answer I got was ‘it’s all going to be classified.’ So I’m not holding out much hope that we’re going to get much out of it in terms of smoking gun information like what crashed in Roswell or are there 20 alien races living among us on earth,” Ryan laughs. But he adds “we might get some interesting cases of drones or more cases of military pilots who saw something they couldn’t explain. Who knows we have a whole new administration in the white house who are a lot more open to this topic, so maybe we’ll get more than we ever got, but I’m remaining hesitant and skeptical until it actually happens.”

Check out Ryan’s site for links to his book, podcast, case files, and more at: www.somewhereintheskies.com and follow The Debrief, as they’ll be on the frontline of this story at thedebrief.org.

Tea’s Weird Week episode 03: Hear my full interview with Ryan Sprague about the UFO disclosure story. Then Me and Heidi share weird news: “My Way” killings, monkey labor problems, a proposed Bigfoot hunting season, hubby’s dream numbers win big, our robot overlord Sophia, a scream hotline, and special guest Mandy Cappleman sings a song from 1652 that’s a total gas. 

Plus trivia, a QAnon vs Flat Earthers poll, and we close out with the track “Algorithm Nation 1814” by Guerilla Ghost featuring the master MC of weirdness Kool Keith.

Listen right here: https://teasweirdweek.podbean.com/e/teas-weird-week-episode-03-countdown-to-ufo-disclosure/

Buy my books:
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousnessbookshop.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

Tea’s Weird Week: A Brief History of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference

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By Tea Krulos, Milwaukee Paranormal Conference founder and director

As I was wrapping up my second book, Monster Hunters in 2015, I came up with a spark of an idea for promotion– why not host a mini-paranormal conference? I had met a good number of interesting researchers of all things unusual from the Midwest. I could invite the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee, the ghost investigation team I had shadowed to write several chapters of the book about. I could invite Linda S. Godfrey, the researcher that broke the Beast of Bray Road story, and Jim Sherman, the Bigfoot researcher from Michigan I had spent a weekend with trying to find the elusive Michigan Sasquatch.

It all started to come together really well. I found a venue, the absolutely beautiful, historic, and atmospheric Irish Cultural and Heritage Center. There was a strong interest in the event– there hadn’t been an attempt at such a conference in Milwaukee for about ten years. It was stressful as any event run on a shoestring and a dream is, but what a great time. I thought I really had something there, so I decided to expand, rapidly.

That’s me leading a panel discussion with Allison Jornlin, Jim Sherman, and Nick Roesler in 2015.

In 2016, I bit off more than I could chew. We moved to UWM and although I’m proud of the programming that year, it was an insane amount of work and I walked out of the event losing lots of money (well, a lot of money for a semi-employed, bohemian writer who is constantly rolling the dice with his bank account). Between that and other factors in my life, I fell into a deep depression. I thought that perhaps Year 2 was also the end of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference.

But then I remembered how much I loved working with all of these cool experts on weird subjects, the vendors, wonderful volunteers, supportive friends, awesome artists and musicians, everyone was just so enthusiastic about having this event. It’s a place where we could discuss all things paranormal– from parapsychology to debates on the Roswell crash to Lake Monster sightings to round-table discussion on the disappearance of D.B. Cooper. Dammit all, the show had to go on!

We returned to the Irish Cultural Center in 2017. It was ok– attendance was low. In order to organize and promote an event like this, it takes a lot of work and I’m often spread thin between the different aspects of my life. And as I was reminded recently when my dad showed me my 6th grade report card he found while cleaning, I’m not always good at asking for help, as 3 out 4 teachers agreed. It was good to see everyone again, though and keep it rolling. We also expanded to other events– we began hosting Friday the 13th Fests every Friday the 13th, a mix of horror themed music, fun stuff, and burlesque as well as Milwaukee Krampusnacht, held at Lakefront Brewery in 2017 before moving to the Bavarian Bierhaus.

The MPC banner flies again! 2019 @ Alverno College

The conference skipped a year in 2018 but returned in 2019 to Alverno College. I think 2019 was a good renewal year– there is certainly lots of potential with the Alverno space and we will be returning there with a big event in 2021 (if the pandemic ever ends).

This year we decided that rather than cancel entirely, we would feature some programming online. The great thing about this is that it’s free and available to anyone who wants to register. There is a solid line-up of speakers, panels, and activities, some from Wisconsin researchers as well as some from beyond.

You can buy this design as a t-shirt, tank top, sticker and other merch right here: https://www.teepublic.com/user/milwaukee-paranormal-conference

Friday: we are kicking things off by having a Ghost Story Happy Hour, I’m hosting Tea’s Weird Week Trivia (categories: Monsters of Folklore, Epic Ghost Hunters of History, and Wisconsin Cryptids) and a performance by Sunspot.

Saturday: Speakers and panels all day, headline speaker is John E.L. Tenney, and at 8pm tune into a live investigation of the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear by the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee.

I will be giving a talk and showing some slides at 11:15am (CST) Saturday on “Strange Places and Secret Societies,” talking about research I’ve done for my book American Madness.

Sunday: Starting things off with a meditation session with Goddess Aida, then virtual tours, a documentary screening and more.

I’m looking forward to it. A huge thanks to everyone participating, American Ghost Walks for sponsoring, and for everyone joining as attendees during this crazy time. I appreciate you all and hope to see you there virtually, and hopefully in person in 2021.

Again, you can register for free for the virtual conference and check out the full schedule here:
https://milwaukeeparacon2020.heysummit.com/

You can get my new book American Madness wherever books are sold, but I recommend my friends Lion’s Tooth: https://www.lionstoothmke.com/american_madness.html#/

My other books are available signed and personalized through the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference Square store (in the “Tea’s Weird Week Gift Shop” section): https://milwaukeeparacon.com/online-store/

Diorama from Feral House on Vimeo.

Tea’s Weird Week: Ask Tea Anything (Pandemic Edition)

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Tea’s Weird Week started as an outlet to write about whatever I wanted to once a week, engage readers, and promote stuff I’m working on– books, articles, events. In this year of crazy 2020, I’ve mostly been writing about “conspiracy theories in the news.” I have a book out in August titled American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness and quite a few people I wrote about have big in 2020: Alex Jones (most recently for leading an anti-quarantine protest in Austin), David Icke (“5G is Coronavirus”), Roger Stone (“Bill Gates is Coronavirus”), QAnon, and Anti-vaxxers have all been in the news this month.

There are new conspiracy stories in the news every day, but I thought I would take a break from analyzing them this week and answer my friend’s questions, solicited through social media. Here’s answers about anti-quarantine protests, doomsday bunkers, cryptozoology, and more.

Real talk. I know you’re all about the absurd and crazy shit. I just gotta know because I care about you- are you planning on going to one of these wingnut anti-stay-at-home/ pro-plague rallies to document? Because, if so, please be safe friend. This is obviously not an encouragement to go be a journalist at one of those. I’m just saying, if you do, be safe as fuck. Also please live long enough to get your own Netflix special because I know you’re capable of that.–Concerned

First, thanks for caring about me. Your message has reminded me that I should be spending some of my spare time messaging people to check in.

Here’s the thing– I really enjoy writing about things that I am enjoy and am genuinely interested in. I have become friends with a lot of people I write about. But sometimes I like getting out of my comfort zone and want to observe something I don’t understand up close. Some examples of this would be attending one of Bob Larson’s “exorcism seminars” for my book Monster Hunters, attending an anti-vaxxer rally and flat earth conference for my book American Madness and most recently, attending a Trump rally (in January, I wrote it up for the Shepherd Express.)

I’m going to sit this one out. I’m processing enough crazy stuff as it is. Watching a bunch of MAGA-hat wearin,’ Gadsen flag wavin’, 2A militia types, anti-vaxxers, etc. shouting about how they demand haircuts just ain’t doing it for me. As far as a Netflix special– as long as I don’t end up getting eaten by a tiger, I’m in!

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Joshua A. Bickel took this iconic photo, which is sure to be used in future texts about this era.

Any thoughts on those fallout type shelters/bunkers at the moment? Or if you know if people are using theirs in the face of pandemic? Just curious and interested in what qualifies those who own space in one to activate its use. –Aims

I think Aims is referring to the Survival Condos, which I toured with my friend Paul while working on a chapter (“Doomsday Bunkers of the Rich and Famous”) for my book Apocalypse Any Day Now. Built into an old Atlas missile silo in Kansas (with more being developed), the building featured several condo units (all sold) and recreation levels.

One thing we were told is that the condo owners had access whenever they wanted. There had recently been a football watching party, and owners would sometimes “vacation” there. As such, it’s possible that the owners could ride out the entire pandemic there if they wanted, and it certainly would be the ultimate quarantine.

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Tea at the Luxury Survival Condos in Kansas.

What’s one conspiracy that most others find false; but, you kinda believe in?— Mando

I’m skeptical about most conspiracies, but I think it’s worth noting that some stuff that seems like conspiracy later turns out to be true. I talk about a few of those in American Madness, the CIA’s Project MK-ultra (a mind control program) being one one quick example. The most believable conspiracy to me is that there has been some kind of UFO cover-up. I don’t mean necessarily extra-terrestrial, but some secret program. There’s just so many compelling UFO cases, I think something is going on. The truth is out there (winking emoticon).

What was really normal, too normal, about one of your subjects that you researched?–Addo

I really love those moments. In my book Heroes in the Night I shared a funny story about how me and Real Life Superhero The Watchman got lost and couldn’t find his car in a parking garage. It was humorously mundane. A lot of Real Life Superheroes were pretty normal outside of their secret lifestyle, as were a lot of paranormal investigators.

One of the major stories I tell in American Madness is that of conspiracist Richard McCaslin. He told me some of the most wild ideas I’ve ever heard– Reptilian aliens secretly controlling our world, Satanists eating babies, all sorts of crazy and terrible things.

Meeting him in person several times, I found I got along with him pretty well and he was friendly and could be oddly normal. I visited him at his house and I remember walking into his kitchen to find him drinking orange juice and laughing as he watched some baby jackrabbits chase each other around his yard in what seemed like a game of tag. It was the first time he said “you gotta see this!” and wasn’t referring to some Illuminati code he had cracked.

Do you have a favorite cryptid?— Matt …and have you ever had a personal experience with one or saw one?— Lynn

If you don’t know, cryptids are creatures studied in cryptozoology. I’ve not had a cryptid encounter myself, but while working on Monster Hunters, I did go on expeditions looking for Sasquatch, a Lake Monster (“Champ” of Lake Champlain), a Skunk Ape, went to the Mothman Festival, and took a ride down Bray Road looking for the Beast. It was all really fun and interesting, I love cryptozoology. I’m working on a writing project about Mothman. I love ’em all, but because of this project, I’m going to declare Mothman as my favorite cryptid, a close second would be Chupacabras.

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Me and Jim Sherman of Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization out in the woods of Michigan on the trail of the Sasquatch.

Would you want to have a really scary experience (alien abduction, possession, angry ghost) just to prove to yourself that it was real? What, if any, would be “too much”?— Judy

When faced with a tough question like this, I try to break it down. On the one hand, it would be pretty intensely transformative to have an experience like that, to witness a deep mystery of the universe. On the other hand, most people wouldn’t believe me anyway, and I know of several cases where people experienced stuff like this (or thought they did) and it damaged them forever. Final conclusion: I’d rather keep it a mystery. I enjoy not knowing.

Of all the people/things you interviewed or investigated was there any thing that you felt you were getting too deep into, or anything that you felt was getting too dangerous or did you fear for your life?— Gregory

The one things that stands out is the crazy night I spent on patrol with Real-Life Superhero Phoenix Jones while working on my book Heroes in the Night. He had pepper-sprayed a group of people that were fighting and they got angry and attacked us. I got punched in the face. At one point it looked like they were trying to get a gun. Then they tried to run us down with an SUV. “I hope this was worth it, cause now you’re going to get murdered,” was definitely a thought that crossed my mind as I was running from the angry, pepper-spray soaked mob. Other experiences– investigating Bobby Mackey’s, a notoriously haunted bar, and diving into some of the conspiracy stuff, has produced frightening moments, but nothing like that.

Thank you all for your questions! I’ll do another “ask me anything” to tie into the release of American Madness in late August or early September– pre-order info below!

Please Clap Dept.: I’ll leave you with some positive vibes– here’s an article I wrote for Milwaukee Magazine on a social distancing nightly dance party: “This Riverwest Neighborhood Dances Every Night at 8.”

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

It’s on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52486773-american-madness

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Having just returned from the grocery store during an official pandemic, I’m reminded to highly recommend Apocalypse Any Day Now, from Tea Krulos, who went way down the doomsday prepper rabbit hole. Fun and unfortunately highly relevant. Do it.” — Brent Gohde, Cedar Block/ Science Strikes Back