I’ve been wanting to keep up with Tea’s Weird Week as a weekly column (as the name implies) but it’s been a real busy time for me. The Milwaukee Paranormal Conference happened. I’ve been running that thing since 2015. I think it went fine. I’m a little burnt out on everything, but it went fine. I hosted a panel with my colleagues Matthew Prigge, Anna Lardinois, and Gavin Schmitt. All three are authors and Matthew and Anna are also Milwaukee Magazine contributors. There were a lot of other great talks and I had a lot of fun on our Sunday Activity Day.
Up next: Milwaukee Krampusnacht. We’re pushing for our biggest year yet so please head over to milwaukeekrampusnacht.com to check out the schedule, ticket info, and you can be a Krampus– put together a costume and register on our site!
Here is a BIG FREAKING DEAL though– a documentary project I’m producer on, I’m Your Host, won a Brico Forward Fund Award by Milwaukee Film!
I’m Your Host is somewhat based on an article I wrote for the October 2021 issue of Milwaukee Magazine. It’s title in print was “Terror on the Tube.” It’s about Kenosha, Wisconsin’s unusually high number of “horror hosts,” people who have their own shows where they introduce old, usually public domain, or independent horror films. You know, like Vampira, Elvira, Svengoolie, etc.
Kenosha has four of these shows– Dr. Destruction’s Crimson Theater, Hexen Arcane, Nightmare Cinema, and Storm’s Eclectic Realm (which features some of the cast of Deadgar’s Dark Coffin Classics. Curtis aka Deadgar Winter passed away shortly after we interviewed him for this doc last year. I wrote about his death for MilMag’s website here: www.milwaukeemag.com/beloved-horror-host-deadgar-winter-has-died)
As I was wrapping the article up, I put together a crew for a documentary that includes our director, the talented Alicia Krupsky, as well as Christopher House, director of the Twisted Dreams Film Fest as a producer. We hired local filmographer Stephen Vincent Anderson for some of the shoots, and Heather House and others have helped, too. The soundtrack features local bands Ratbatspider, Imperial Fall, and The Almas.
It’s been a roller coaster! We have shared in our subject matter’s heartbreak over the death of Curtis (Stephen and Alicia helped with his memorial show, I wrote his obituary) but were also able to share the success of Dr. Destruction being inducted in the Worldwide Television and Radio Horror Host Hall of Fame (we helped plan his party).
We applied for the Brico award and Tuesday was the big day. Me and Alicia showed up for Milwaukee Film’s event to announce the award recipients. There were a good number of people there and I did feel intimidated. Shortly before the announcements started I told Alicia, “ya know, if we don’t win it, at least we tried. A lot of people don’t even make it this far.”
They began, introduced the award jury, and then started talking about the first award winner. Me and Alicia looked at each other. They were talking about us! It was quite a great moment in my life. I’ve had some wins and some failures, but this was a big win. The award is going to provide us with some funding as well as some free access to professional services that will really help make our doc the best it can be. We’re all very excited to get it finished and share this story by getting it out to both traditional and horror film fests.
A big THANK YOU to everyone who has been supportive of this project, especially the horror hosts themselves.
Here’s our first trailer, which was part of our award application.
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My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)
I’m still recovering from October. What a month! Definitely one of the busiest I’ve experienced. I did a bunch of tours for American Ghost Walks, did some podcasts, took a trip to California to work on the American Madness doc and…oh yeah, started a new project– a documentary short based on an article I wrote for the October Milwaukee Magazine. The doc’s working title is Kenosha Horror Hosts.
This all started back in 2016 when I met a horror host from the Kenosha area, Deadgar Winter, who has a show called Deadgar’s Dark Coffin Classics. That same year I also first encountered Dr. Destruction, a horror host with a show called Crimson Theatre, also based in Kenosha.
A horror host show features a zany character (or cast of characters) that introduces an old horror film (or independent features) and they do short skits as “bumper segments” when going to commercial breaks.
Vampira is cited as the first horror host. Actress Maila Nurmi hosted The Vampira Show in 1954. Her life story is really interesting and amazing and if you’re looking for a good book, I highly recommend Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi, written by her niece Sandra Niemi (published by Feral House, who published my book American Madness).
Some other famous examples of horror hosts– Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (she was supposed to be a Vampira reboot, but her producers decided they would just rip Vampira off and not pay her), Chicago’s Svengoolie, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Joe Bob Briggs to name a few.
After I met Deadgar Winter and Dr. Destruction, I thought there might be an interesting story there and I filed it away in the back of my brain. When I saw that two of Deadgar’s co-hosts, Celeste and Morgan Parker had split off and started their own show (Hexen Arcane), I decided it was time to do the story up. Then I discovered there was a fourth show in the Kenosha area– Nightmare Cinema with Uncle Wolfman. Whaaaaaat. Four Kenosha horror host shows?
While working on the article I just had a kind of light bulb moment where I could see the story being a great documentary short– it’s a story filled with colorful characters. My Tea’s Weird Week podcast co-host Heidi Erickson introduced me to her friend, filmmaker Alicia Krupsky, who agreed to be director. Christopher House, a co-founder of the Twisted Dreams Film Fest is a producer and cinematographer. Stephen Vincent Anderson and Heather House have provided additional camera work and we’ll have more talented people helping with production.
We did a few shoots, including the bulk of interviews we wanted last month and it’s been a blast. Winter is going to be a good time to work on editing. We’re hoping to be done in late spring or early summer and will be entering Kenosha Horror Hosts into film fests. In the meantime, you can read my Milwaukee Magazine article here (or listen to me read it on this week’s Tea’s Weird Week podcast, link below): A Look Inside the Surprisingly Large Web of Local Horror Hosts (milwaukeemag.co
Tea’s Weird Week S3 ep07: Halloween Hangover: Happy witching season! Tea reads his article on Wisconsin horror hosts from the October issue of Milwaukee Magazine. Tea and Heidi discuss Tea’s encounter with a street preacher while leading a ghost our, QAnon thought JFK Jr. would appear to them in Dallas, Zuck’s BBQ bottle and more. Miss Information has trivia and we close out with a track by Rexxx, “Animal.”
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)