All posts by Mike Huberty

Co-Host of See You On The Other Side podcast Lead Vocalist & Bassist for Sunspot

222 – Mental Health and the Supernatural: From Schizophrenia to Indigo Children

The shadow of mental illness hangs over supernatural experience. If someone at your office job told you that they really believe that they’d been abducted by aliens, would you look at them the same? I mean, you’re reading the show notes for a paranormal podcast, so maybe you would like them even more. But there is a stigma associated with mental illness in our society and a stigma associated with believing in the supernatural. When you combine them, it’s becomes doubly dubious. 

And I admit, that I’m pretty skeptical. Like most Americans (52%), I believe   in the possibility of ghosts and like 57% of my countrymen and women, I’m also down with psychic powers but if you told me that you had a real deal supernatural encounter, like talking to a demon or you hear spirits in your head, I’m a doubting Thomas.

We have to be somewhat skeptical because while mental health treatment is still a very inexact science and we’re obviously overmedicating many of our most vulnerable patients, when you read stories of schools being closed because of evil spirits or hundreds of child abuse cases a year being attributed to demonic possession, the whole thing feels medieval. Like treating these problems as a spiritual instead of mental health matter might be causing more harm than good.

But are there any actual cases where there might be some kind of supernatural phenomena beyond the mental health issue? 

And that’s the trouble with stigmas, they make things so touchy that people are afraid to tell the truth. No one wants to be associated with mental illness because they don’t want to sound “crazy”, even though almost every single person will fight some kind of psychological disorder at some point in their life. Most people want to steer clear of the supernatural, even though 80% of Americans profess to believe in some kind of God. People need to be able to discuss their experience without everyone judging them. 

Sometimes art can help remove stigmas and sometimes they can make them worse. Sybil famously brought the world of dissociative personality disorder (multiple personality) to the public but Psycho was inspired by the real-life story of Ed Gein, a murderer diagnosed with schizophrenia. Getting our opinions on mental health from movies is dangerous because it paints an unrealistic and sometimes unsympathetic picture of illness. C’mon, in exorcism films, are the possessed ever really just sick? No, then there wouldn’t be a movie, at least not the kind that sells tickets to horror fans. 

In this episode, we discuss the relationships between mental illness and the paranormal. Here’s some of the topics we cover:

Our band Sunspot wrote the song for this week in the late 90s, when Prozac was at its prescriptive height and it seemed that more and more children were being given the drug. My psych professors at the University of Wisconsin would tell me about the lunches that the pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly would put on for psychiatric clinics, they were lobbyists for their drugs. They would actively try to get doctors to prescribe them.

I remember when one of my teenage friends told me she was on Prozac and it shocked me, not that I thought she was crazy, but that she was so young and already on medication. I was shocked that kids weren’t being allowed to “pass through a phase”, they were getting pills right away. Maybe I was reacting to the stigma of mental illness I felt with people in my own family who were on medication, but it felt like maybe we should give kids a chance to be moody. Maybe we shouldn’t be interfering with brain chemistry that’s still so plastic, still developing, still trying to find its way.

And now it’s more than ever, 80 million Americans take a psychiatric drug and over 7 million them are under 18. Maybe we wrote this song too early? 

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

She sits in her room and cries all night
Never had a real boyfriend in her life
Her mommy wonders why she doesn’t have any friends
Daddy only sees her when he has her on the weekends

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine

Her grandma thinks that it might be bad luck
I think we used to call it “just growing up”
When you feel that your life is just pathetic
You slap it in a textbook, and blame it on genetics

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine

She doesn’t cry anymore
She doesn’t laugh anymore
She doesn’t know how she should feel anymore
A chemical imbalance
That’s covered by insurance
It’s hard to be a little girl
When you’re numb to the world

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine

221 – The Imaginal Realm: Active Dreaming and Synchronicities with Robert Moss

If you’re anything like me, you have a love/hate relationship with the dream world. Sure, it can be fun to dream and some whacked out cool things can happen, but nightmares can randomly develop and turn something unusual and strange into something terrifying and soul-crushing in the blink of an eye. I’ve felt ecstasy inside a dream, but I’ve also had bouts of uncontrollable crying and overwhelming pangs of guilt.

And I’m doing it to myself, right? Because dreams, they’re not even real. It’s just a “bit of undigested beef or a blot of mustard“! Well, author and dream teacher Robert Moss doesn’t think so. He calls the dream world “The Imaginal Realm” and believes that we can change our lives by what we see in dreams. He believes that it is a pathway to parallel universes of lives unlived here but fulfilled there. Moss believes dreams are a way to spend time with spiritual beings who live in a different dimension, to talk to the dead, and to receive messages from our higher selves.

Robert Moss has been featured on shows from Charlie Rose to Coast to Coast AM and he joins us to talk about how he uses symbolism (and lots of Jungian psychology) from dreams to help people work through their struggles in waking life.  

  • How Robert Moss lived a lifetime in a few minutes during a dream he had in a childhood Near-Death Experience
  • The dream message that changed his life and led him on a path away from best-selling Cold War thriller novels and onto dream teaching and shamanism
  • An almost-miraculous synchronicity with a dominatrix that occurred on an airline flight 
  • How he helps people deal with and take control of their nightmares
  • How to use dreams to speak to the Dead
  • The importance of keeping a Dream Journal
  • The principles of his Active Dreaming method and how you can start engaging your dreams tonight

Robert Moss’ new book is called Mysterious Realities: Tales from the Imaginal Realm and you can purchase it at his website, www.mossdreams.com

The song this week is a psychedelic dream voyage. “The Land of Nod” is the Biblical place located “east of Eden” where Cain was exiled after he killed his brother Abel. (In fact, in the game Vampire: The Masquerade, Cain is the first vampire and the sacred text of bloodsuckers is called The Book of Nod.) But it’s also a euphemism for dreamland, (you “nod” off to sleep) that was used as early as Jonathan Swift and Robert Louis Stevenson and is still used by authors like Neil Gaiman. And of course we had to shout out some Shakespeare, Poe, and Coleridge (who wrote the world’s most famous unfinished poem inspired by a dream!)  Here is Sunspot’s “The Land of Nod”.

We are such stuff it seems
inside in a dream within a dream
a Kubla Khan in Xanadu

A physical transcending
to a world that’s never ending
where the soul does continue

can a lifetime be lived
with what a moment has to give,
Well, the clock is broken anyway

And it is your own creative hand
that flips this to a savage land
where you are nothing more than prey.

Who sent you
You sent you

You’re running
but you can’t move
and You’re trying
your legs are glued
you’re struggling
but you can’t stand
then you’re falling
but you don’t land
and you’re screaming
but there’s no sound
and you’re crying
but your tears drown
inside
before you die
you need to open your eyes
you need to open

We are such stuff it seems
inside in a dream within a dream
a Kubla Khan in Xanadu

A physical transcending
to a world that’s never ending
where the soul does continue

can a lifetime be lived
with what a moment has to give,
Well, the clock is broken anyway

And it is your own creative hand
that flips this to a savage land
where you are nothing more than prey.

Who sent you
You sent you

220 – True Crime Halloween: Scarier Than Superstition

When we think about Halloween, we think of witches and ghosts and demons. Superstitions and mythical creatures. Wicked? Sure. Scary? You bet. Real? Well, the jury is out. We talk about the veil between the worlds being at its most thin on the holiday, we talk about Samhain, horror movies, and jack o’ lanterns. We make evil into a joke, something cute for kids. We dress up little girls as witches, little boys as vampires. The terrors of our Dark Ages become fantasy fodder for our Enlightened era. We’ve talked about all kinds of supernatural brutes on this show and every kind of superstition. But sometimes the most horrible monsters aren’t monsters at all. They’re just people, sick and weak and selfish and angry people. 

  • Halloween night 1974, Ronald Clark O’Bryan laced candy Pixy Stix with cyanide in order to kill his children and collect their life insurance policies. He pretended to go to a neighbor’s house who wasn’t home and “trick or treat”-ed the candy, giving it to his own children and their friends. His son Timothy was poisoned to death and O’Bryan was caught and eventually executed. He was nicknamed “The Candy Man” or “The Man That Killed Halloween”.

  • On Halloween 1975, 15 year old Martha Moxley’s body was found bludgeoned to death and stabbed with a golf club. The affluent and troubled Skakel brothers were implicated in the murder and one of the brothers was eventually tried and convicted of her murder 25 years later. The case was international news because their aunt was married to Robert F. Kennedy.

  • October 28th, 2014, 35 year old Derek Ward decapitated his mother, Patricia Ward, and carried her body out into a Long Island street. There were several witnesses that watched him carrying the headless corpse but they had no idea it was real, they thought they were looking at a Halloween decoration. Derek Ward then proceeded to walk three blocks and killed himself by jumping in front of a train.

  • Halloween 1981, Ronald Sisman and Elizabeth Platzman are found murdered in their New York City apartment. The apartment is ransacked and they are killed execution style. Police suspect a drug transaction gone bad until a prison inmate came to them with an unusual claim. That inmate was imprisoned with David Berkowitz, the infamous “Son of Sam” killer, who was arrested in 1977. The inmate claimed that Berkowitz told him earlier that he was part of a cult that was planning on killing a photographer in an apartment in Greenwich Village on Halloween in a Satanic ritual. The police couldn’t get enough evidence and the case remains unsolved.

  • On Halloween night 2002, Christopher Jenkins was kicked out of a Minneapolis bar into the freezing weather while still in his costume. His body was found in the Mississippi River four months later. Four years later, the Minneapolis police changed the status of his death from an accidental drowning to homicide, but no one has ever been charged in the crime. Two New York detectives have their own theory about a “Smiley Face Murder Club” that travels along the Mississippi, killing young men and covering up their crimes by dumping the bodies in the river.

When we use names to describe these real-life terrors we turn people into monsters: “Smiley Face Killers”, “Son of Sam”, “The Candyman”. Nicknames are catchy, they sell newspapers and get clicks, but it also de-humanizes the people behind the names. It turns them into a witch or a vampire or a ghost. Because how could someone, a regular person like us, do something as horrible as this?

The song this week is based on a  true crime that happened in St. Louis in October of 1899. Francis “Frankie” Baker was a young woman who was keeping company with ragtime piano player named Allen Britt. Allen he stepped out on her with a prostitute named Alice Nelson, Frankie heard about it and got so enraged that she shot him. Allen died 4 days later and was able to tell the police who did it.

At Frankie’s trial, she claimed that it was self-defense, that Allen pulled a knife on her and that he beat her in the past. That was good enough for the jury, who acquitted her. But within months, someone had already written a song about it and soon afterwards, the names were changed a little bit to accommodate easier rhymes. The song “Frankie and Johnny” was born and was covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Merle Haggard to Elvis. Francis Baker died poor in 1952, and was bitter that she never received any money from the song that she inspired. However, she did kill a guy. This episode’s song is our own acoustic guitar and violin version of the true crime murder ballad, “Frankie and Johnny”.

Frankie and Johnny was lovers, oh, how they could love
They sworn to be true to each other, true as the skies above
He was he man, he wouldn’t do her no wrong.

Frankie went down to the corner, to get her a stein of beer
She asked the big old fat bartender, “Have my lovin’ Johnny been here?
He is my man, he wouldn’t do her no wrong. “

Said, “I ain’t gonna tell you no story, I ain’t gonna tell you no lie
He was here ’bout an hour ago with that gal they call Nellie Bly,
He was your man, but he’s been doin’ you wrong.”

Frankie went down to the hotel, she didn’t go down there for fun
Under her long red kimono she carried her .44 gun
Lookin’ for the man that was doin’ her wrong.

Johnny pulled off his Stetson hat, hollered, “Now, baby, don’t shoot!”
Frankie pressed her finger on the trigger and that gun went “rrrroooolietoo”
She killed her man, ’cause he was doin’ her wrong

This is the end of my story, this is the end of my song
Frankie’s down in the county jail, poor thing, down there all alone
She killed her man, ’cause he was doin’ her wrong.
She killed her man, ’cause he was doin’ her wrong.
She killed her man, ’cause he’d been doin’ her wrong.

219 – Buried Alive: 30 Hours In The Coffin Challenge

On October 21st and 22nd, Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts  participated in the Coffin Challenge at Six Flags Great America outside of Chicago, Illinois. What was the challenge?

  • Lay in a coffin for 30 hours straight
  • Only one 6-minute break per hour for the bathroom
  • Only be able to use their cell phones for 13 minutes per hour
  • Playing music and scaring the people at all hours of the night
  • Only six 15-minute food breaks throughout the 30 hours

Allison texted me about it a couple of weeks ago and she was incredibly excited to be part of it. 3000 people (including me!) submitted to be chosen for the coffin challenge and spend those 30 hours in the Northern Illinois cold in a casket. Six people were chosen and my sister made the cut.

It began at 1pm on Saturday October 20th and she couldn’t have started off any more stoked to be there…

Right around 2am in the morning is when things started getting unpleasant as the torture commenced. You see, to make it hard on them, the ghouls from the haunted houses at Fright Fest decided to keep them up…

And that’s where Allison started losing it. Sleep deprivation is a classic way of torturing people and making them want to give up, and we’ve seen it in fiction from Lost to A Clockwork Orange. This night she was tormented by the Six Flags workers as well as a little nightmare ear worm (as many beleaguered parents can attest to, including myself) called “Baby Shark”. That was put on blast for the coffin challengers from 3 to 4am.

So, did she make it? You bet she did. And in this episode, we talk with Allison about her experience and how she soldiered through the Six Flags Coffin Challenge of being buried alive for thirty hours. Also, we get some cool ghost stories from the Gurnee, Illinois area with Scott Markus from WhatsYourGhostStory.com (he used to work Fright Fest at Six Flags Great America himself back in the day!)

And that’s not all! We learn a little about:

  • Taphophobia – the fear of being buried alive
  • Famous people that were terrified of being buried alive themselves
  • Real cases of people being buried alive as late as 2015
  • Where the phrases “saved by the bell” and “dead ringer” come from

The Sunspot song this week uses the metaphor of being buried alive to talk about the ways that we can create our own “Cask of Amontillado” through lies and self-deception. When you lie, you have to pile on more and more in order to avoid being caught, and after awhile it just feels like you’re “Buried Alive”!

When your heart is sick from beating,
cuz this double life you’re leading
ain’t no fun.
You need to find your bearing
‘fore you’re staring down
the barrel of a gun.

Cuz every lie just builds on every lie
You’ve got a crypt but you ain’t gonna die
only as good as your latest alibi.
The more you struggle, the more you’re tied
left in a hole where you’ll never see the sky.

You’re buried alive

When your mind is tired of roiling
‘cuz the rope just keeps on coilinga
’round your throat.
You better find some kind of spin
or you’re gonna swim
the dead man’s float.

Cuz every lie builds on every lie
You’ve got a crypt but you ain’t gonna die
only as good as your latest alibi.
The more you struggle, the more you’re tied
left in a hole where you’ll never see the sky.

You’re buried alive.

 

218 – Ghosts of the Shooting Star – Stories from Minnesota ParaCon 2018

And I would drive 500 miles and I would drive 500 more…

So, we hopped in the Sunspot van and Wendy, Scott from WhatsYourGhostStory.com, and I drove a thousand miles this weekend to the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minnesota for their 2018 Paracon. It was a fun-filled three days where we made dozens of new friends, talked about hundreds of paranormal experiences, and even got to play some Blackjack (Wendy has a system, in case you were wondering!)

Mike, Wendy, and Scott manning the booth!

Now, we’ve had vendor tables at several different paranormal conventions before and it is hard to stand out. You’re competing with celebrities (we had two lovely actresses right next to us and Chip frickin’ Coffey right across the way), paranormal presentations, a bar open all day, and gambling. How are we going to get people’s attention with our little podcast? Well, we decided to create a paranormal quest where people could enter to win a sweet prize package of ghost tour tickets, Sunspot CDs, books on Chicago ghost stories, and a haunted Gingerbread house.

Chuck Woolery, eat your heart out!

So, how were we going to get everyone to come on by and get weird with us? Well, we tried to do a little “paranormal quest” game where we had three sections:

The eyeball test tubes we used to conduct our “favorite paranormal topic” poll

Once people answered our questions, then we entered them into the drawing! So, what did we discover about the Paracon attendees?

  • “Purple Rain” is their favorite Prince song by a huge margin
  • There’s not as many Vikings fans as you’d think, most of them couldn’t even name a player
  • Ghosts are the most popular topic, followed by demons, then UFOs (I know, right? Unexpected.). Cryptids came in last, which broke Bigfoot’s heart.
  • More than three-quarters of the people we met had a personal ghostly encounter and a majority of them were about their family and loved ones. That was really nice. They were mainly positive and comforting experiences. 
Daniel, the winner of the paranormal prize pack! He shared several of his paranormal experiences with us as well…
Here’s a compilation of ghost stories you guys told at our booth!

So, since ghosts were the topic that most people were interested in, we decided to interview a few of the presenters  about some of their most memorable ghostly encounters. In this episode, we have personal ghost stories from:

Darkness Radio‘s Dave Schrader interviewing Jael De Pardo and Erin Ryder from Destination Truth
Mike talking with cryptozoology author, Nick Redfern
Scott and Mike talking to actress, Erin Marie Hogan

For the song this week, we used the name of the place, the Shooting Star Casino, as the initial inspiration. Time flies like a shooting star and as John Lennon said on Double Fantasy:

Before you cross the street take my hand.
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy”

When we’re young and we think about the future, there’s a sense of wonder. I saw a lot of that this weekend. There were psychics making predictions and mediums who say they can talk to the dead. We dream about what might happen and wish for something better. Some nights seem like they’ll last forever, but they don’t, before we know it the future is here, whether we’re ready or not and the important part is to try and not lose that sense of wonder that makes the whole thing worthwhile. That’s the idea behind this quick rock track, “Best-Laid Plans”.

Staring at the sky til dawn
laid out in front of your piece of crap car
this getaway could not go wrong
so we made a wish on every single star

And all those summer nights
that weren’t meant to last
like a shooting star
they just burn so fast
Yeah, we ran away
but the best-laid plans
are fantasies
So if you make that wish, I will believe.

And then we tried to tell the future
We looked at our palms and studied all the lines
When every kiss was an adventure
and we laughed at all the hearts we’d leave behind

And all those summer nights
that weren’t meant to last
like a shooting star
they just burn so fast
Yeah, we ran away
but the best-laid plans
are fantasies
So if you make that wish, I will believe.

217 – 1871 Firestorm: Ghosts, Comets, and the Virgin Mary

On October 8th, 1871 the deadliest fire disaster in American history struck Peshtigo, Wisconsin, a small town up north past Green Bay and almost to Upper Michigan. Estimates of casualties ran from over a thousand people to up to twenty-five hundred lost lives. People talk about the firestorm that blew through the town, a “tornado of flames” as they jumped into the river to escape the blaze. Not much of a respite as many then developed hypothermia from the cold water. It was a nightmarish hellscape as fire clouds filled the sky and the heat was so massive that it created its own wind, spreading the inferno further and further. Too many bodies were burned beyond recognition and of the corpses they could find, many couldn’t be identified because the only other people that could identify them were the other bodies. It was an incredible tragedy that was overshadowed in the news by another famous tragedy that happened that night, The Great Chicago Fire.

Mel Kishner’s painting of the people hiding in the river from the flames at Peshtigo

That’s right, two famous fires occurred on the same night. And it wasn’t just those, several towns in Michigan experienced incredible fires that night as well. The entire town of Holland (where I spent a very formative summer before Seventh Grade) burned down as did Port Huron. So, what happened that night that so many fires occurred at once?

Well, no cause of the fires has been confirmed for sure, but scientists believe that it was because it was such a dry summer in the Upper Midwest (there was only a quarter of the amount of the average amount of rainfall and Chicago itself only got one inch between the 4th of July and the night of the blaze) the towns were ripe for it. Fires had already been burning near Peshtigo as they were clearing land (the literal slash n’ burn technique) for farming and development that summer, so much so that a lighthouse near Green Bay was on twenty four hours a day that summer. In Chicago, they famously blamed Mrs. O’Leary because the fire started near her farm, and the legend was that she was milking a cow when he kicked over a lantern and started the barn on fire.

Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over the lantern

As early as 1883, Igantius Donnelly, a Minnesota politician proposed in his book, Ragnarok: The Age of Fire And Gravel, suggested that it was a meteor storm as Earth was passing through the remnants of Comet Biela. A comet discovered in 1826 that was supposed to be appear in 1872 and didn’t, leading him to speculate that we passed through the meteor shower of the comet’s debris and those meteors started the fire. Although, since the year before Ignatius also wrote a book on Atlantis that basically formed the modern narrative popularized by Edgar Cayce, his theory is still a little bit controversial to say the least. 

But that’s merely one of the weird stories that came out of the 1871 firestorm. From the shadow figures people see on the streets of Peshtigo to the only apparition of the Virgin Mary officially recognized by the Catholic Church. This tragedy might be the most paranormal natural disaster we’ve ever seen.

Scott Markus from WhatsYourGhostStory.com and author of Voices From The Chicago Grave joins Wendy and I for this episode as we tell ghost stories of the great fires of 1871. Here’s some of the highlights:

For the song this week, we thought it would be cool to learn one of the most popular songs of 1871. Not only because it’s a fun challenge, but also because we want to play this song and some other contemporary music when we do our own investigation of the sites of the Great 1871 Firestorm. We’d love to stir up an EVP or some ghostly activity by playing a song that the spirits know. So, we decided on a William Shakespeare Hays song that sold over a million copies of sheet music in 1871. That’s like going platinum way before platinum existed! Here is the Sunspot version of “Mollie Darling”.

Won’t you tell me Mollie darling, that you love none else but me
For I love you Mollie darling,  you are all the world to me
Oh tell me darling that you love me, put your little hand in mine       
Take my heart sweet Mollie darling, say that you will give me thine.

Molly fairest sweetest dearest, look up darling tell me this
Do you love me Mollie darling? Let your answer be a kiss.

Stars are smiling Mollie darling, through the mystic veil of nightF 
They seem laughing Mollie darling, while fair Luna hides her light   
Oh no one listens but the flowers, while they hang their heads in shame
They are modest Mollie darling, when they hear me call your name     

Mollie fairest, sweetest, dearest, look up darling tell me this
Do you love me Mollie darling? Let your answer be a kiss.

216 – The Blood of Bathory: Parabiosis, Vampire Facials, and The World’s Most Evil Woman

When The Bye Bye Man author Robert Damon Schneck told us about how he was surprised that people all the way up until the 19th Century believed in the healing power of blood, the first person I thought of was the infamous “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, a woman allegedly so depraved that she would bathe in the blood of virgins that she killed just because she believed it made her skin look younger. 

Ya gotta admit, she does look like a psycho in this portrait

What a silly idea, I’ve always thought. How primitive and savage, how absolutely barbaric and unscientific. Blood can’t make you feel and look younger and it certainly can’t make you live forever like a vampire. But that’s where I was wrong, and maybe the Blood Countess was right. 

If Kim Kardashian killed people for her beauty, at least she’d be famous for something else besides being famous…

They do have a special skin therapy called a platelet-rich plasma treatment where they use blood plasma and something terrifyingly called “micro-needling” (which operates exactly how it sounds). Kim Kardashian hash tagged hers as a “Vampire Facial” when she did it originally. It works by damaging the skin with the micro-needling and then using the blood, which contains natural healing factors that will supposedly rejuvenate the skin by activating more of its own healing factors all the time. Does it work? Well, the jury is out. But could Bathory have been onto something? 

Well, the whole “bathing in blood” thing is an exaggeration. That didn’t even enter the legend until the mid-Nineteenth Century. Bathory was born in 1560 and was part of one of the most wealthy and powerful families in Hungary. In fact, the family name was so powerful that her husband, who came from the second-most powerful family in Hungary, took her last name instead of making her take his. 

It was claimed that she was the world’s most prolific serial killer, ending the lives of over 650 young girls, whose families had entrusted them to be in the service and protection of the countess. But with a life intertwined with war, politics, intrigue, the everyday cruelty of masters and serfs, the truth behind her crimes is much more complex than I was originally led to believe. While we can’t quite redeem the lady’s reputation (she probably was a sadist and killed some people), we can at least put into doubt her status as the Most Evil Woman in the World. 

That’s some straight up Human Centipede stuff on these mice…

Sure, but is there anything to the idea that young blood can heal an older person? Yeah, there is, it’s actually far less barbaric than I thought. Parabiosis means “living next to each other”. Think about the word symbiosis, it’s a similar idea, but in symbiosis it’s just two creatures with a special relationship that they both get something out of. In parabiosis the two creatures are actually next to each other, sharing blood, and it was explored through research where they connected the bloodstreams by literally stitching together an older mouse and a younger mouse. But what they discovered that young blood helps rejuvenate old tissue. It works!

This showed up in the news because in 2016 Gawker-buster and PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel had mentioned that he was interested in conquering death, on not just fighting aging, but trying to live forever. In one article he’s quoted as mentioning he’s interested in parabiosis. A later article claims that his company might be interested in a  particular startup, Ambrosia Medical, who was leading the way with transfusing young blood to old people.

Ambrosia is the food of the gods in Greek Mythology and we all know that Gods are immortal. Ambrosia is also the name of the chocolate factory where Jeffrey Dahmer used to work and he’s another guy that believed that if you ingested part of another person, that they gave you their power. So, I guess that name is appropriate in more ways than one. 

Fast forward to 2018 and Ambrosia is planning on opening a physical location in New York before the end of the year. Only $8,000 can get you a transfusion of some young blood. It’s a 180-degree turn from our disgust at Elizabeth Bathory. Now we’re not shocked about older people getting transfusions of young blood to reverse the aging process, now we’re going to pay for the privilege.  

So, in this episode we cover:

  • The fate of Elizabeth Bathory and her strange assistants
  • Why Bathory might have been framed for her enemies’ political gain
  • The ancient beliefs in how the blood of someone strong can help the sick
  • The parabiosis experiments that led to the modern Ambrosia Medical facility
  • Why vampire facials might not be a good idea

The story of Elizabeth Bathory puts the situation of a noblewoman and a serf in Sixteenth Century Europe into extreme contrast. The real sick thing about Elizabeth wasn’t that she was given to sadistic proclivities or that she was bathing in blood, it was that she was born into the power over life and death of another human being. That lives were subject to the whims of her capriciousness. Her accomplices were tortured and killed while she was merely sentenced to life imprisonment and walled up in her own castle. The difference between noble and peasant is what really sticks out as the injustice. People didn’t do anything because she was a noblewoman, she was allowed to indulge her sickest instincts because of politics. And when you blame the system, that means everyone involved is a little dirty with “The Blood of Bathory”.

Who’s the most wicked woman to live in this world?
Who bathes in the blood of the all the innocent girls

Get wet.

He turned a blind eye but the King he could see
Murder for pleasure in the family tree

Indulge
the aristocracy
for every hand is wet with
the blood of Bathory

Pins under fingernails or a
a honey roasted feast
you only matter as much
as your ancestry
the tribes will battle
the ruling class will speechify,
we’ll watch the fireworks
as the little people die.

Who’s the wickedest woman to ever live in this world?
Who bathes in the blood of the all the innocent girls

Indulge
the aristocracy
for every hand is wet with
the blood of Bathory

215 – Avril Is Dead: The Strange Cases of Pop Culture Doppelgängers

Avril Lavigne’s latest single, “Head Above Water” is off her first album in five years. After battling Lyme Disease, Lavigne said that it was thinking of her own mortality and going through the living Hell of a night where she believed that she was going to die that inspired the music off of her new album. But some people on the Internet believe that the real Avril Lavigne died over fifteen years ago and it’s her lookalike that has been living her life instead.  Is the Avril Lavigne who is singing “Head Above Water” really a doppelgänger originally named Melissa Vandella? Is it really Melissa who married the guy from Nickelback AND the guy from Sum 41 (well, at least she keeps it Canadian!)? Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated, huh?

Well, not really. A Brazilian fan site revealed the fact that they made the whole thing up as a hoax in 2012 as a social media experiment. Could they start a rumor that other eoieoke would report on? Well, here we are, good Jon guys. Avril of course is not the first musician that people said died was replaced surreptitiously, she’s just the latest. Paul McCartney obviously is the most famous with the “Paul Is Dead” business from the late 1960s.

If you haven’t heard the story, it goes that Paul McCartney got into a car accident and died in 1966 and the British government asked the Beatles to stay together so there wouldn’t be a rash of teenage suicides in the wake of the band breaking up. And I almost believe that. No band was bigger than the Beatles, ever.  We had  a Beatles week in my Sixth Grade class because my Baby Boomer teacher was so excited to talk about them. Books after books have been written about them, they’re the biggest, richest, and most famous musicians ever. They have a song royalty and merchandise machine that will last long after I’m dead. 

People heard “I buried Paul” at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Turn me on, Deadman” when they played “Revolution #9” backwards and they said that John was leaving them clues about what really happened. They said that there were hints in Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to the name of the impostor and that the fact that they stopped performing live at the end of 1966 meant that they didn’t want the new Paul to get exposed. People even say that the cover of Abbey Road is supposed to represent a “funeral” for Paul, with John as the clergyman, Ringo as the mourner, and George as the gravedigger. Sorry, I think that’s reaching. If the real Paul McCartney actually died, this new guy will have been Paul for almost three times as long as the original Paul was alive. Plus if this guy wrote “Let It Be”, then I like the doppelgänger better!

The King Lives?

Paul might be the most famous, but the idea that Elvis Presley traded places with his doppelgänger is the plot to Joe Lansdale’s wonderful short story (and modern horror cinema classic) Bubba Ho-Tep. And fascinatingly enough, an Elvis impersonator named Jimmy Ellis used the idea of the King faking his own death and returning to sing under another name to catapult himself to some minor hits and touring success in the late 1970s. Never underestimate the ability of American marketing ingenuity to turn a tragedy into a way to make money.

Live in Madison in 2005

Perhaps the weirdest case of synchronicity is something that just happened with one of our favorite musicians, Andrew W.K. If you haven’t heard him, it’s kind of like a Norman Vincent Peale book set to industrial heavy metal. There’s lots of screaming, lots of talk about partying, lots of dancing stupidly. Basically his music is amazing and as a band, we’ve been huge fans of him since right around 2002 where we would blast I Get Wet to keep us awake as we drove three abreast in a little truck going from gig to gig. We’ve gone to see him a dozen times, we opened for him when he played in Madison in 2015, and we just saw him again in Austin this year. 

Wendy and I just decided to talk about rock star doppelgängers on Friday, so when Stereogum released an article this weekend about an obscure controversy that erupted around Andrew W.K. years ago and that he might not be the person who recorded the first album and that he was replaced, well, we knew it was kismet!

First things first, Andrew W.K. is ridiculous. He wears a dirty white t-shirt and filthy acid-washed jeans, that’s his uniform.  His twitter is constant positivity about the power of partying. He had a column in the Village Voice completely dedicated to making people feel better about themselves through partying, pizza, and music. His show on VH1 was called Your Friend, Andrew W.K. It’s a non-stop performance art piece that has been going on since his first album, and that dedication has made his music mean even that much more to his fans. Sometimes at his shows you’ll see people dressed in the AWK uniform (unlike Wendy who makes her own Andrew W.K. wear!)

When he first visited England, even the BBC joked that it was rumored that Andrew W.K. wasn’t a real person but just a hoax conceived by Dave Grohl (from Nirvana and Foo Fighters) of all people. But in the liner notes for Andrew W.K.’s first album, it mentions that it’s executive produced by someone named Steev Mike (obviously a pseudonym). There is an article about Steev Mike in the early press for Andrew W.K. (before he’s signed to a major label) that uses Andrew’s picture for Steev. So what’s that about?

In 2004, a concert in New Jersey is abruptly canceled mid-show and people say that the Andrew W.K. that was onstage that night wasn’t the real one, it was just a guy dressed up as the original. Then, his official website is hacked  by Steev Mike himself, telling Andrew not to “squeeze him out”. Andrew makes a few cryptic statements, but on the Internet people start theorizing that Andrew W.K. is a fictional creation and this is just an actor playing him. Kind of like Pierce Brosnan in Remington Steele. People even say that the face of the Andrews looks different from the first album to the second album, that it’s a new long-haired white shirted wild man playing the character.

What’s the truth? Well, that’s what the Stereogum writer tries to get at in the article, but even Andrew W.K. officially says something on Facebook in a personal message to everyone that likes his page:

We urge you to dismiss the claim that Andrew isn’t real, or any similar assertions that paint him as something he is not. Andrew has never worked behind the scenes with any individual or group in order to make it appear as though he doesn’t exist.

So, the debate returns. What do I think? It’s just a performance art piece that was meant to dial up the mystery when Alternate Reality Games were hot in the early 2000s and they got a lot more traction out of the power of positive thinking then by creating some anti-Andrew W.K. The plan changed when they lost their label deal for their next album. But is it a different person playing the character? His face really thickened between I Get Wet and The Wolf

Younger Andrew
Older Andrew

I have to admit, that I kinda thought the same thing. It might just be getting older because he was so young in the first pic.

Was Andrew W.K. created by committee? Maybe. Do I care? Not really. The music and live show are my favorite parts and that seems to be the same guy since we first saw him in concert in 2004 in Milwaukee.

Bu people in general, demand honesty and authenticity in particular from musicians more than other artists it seems. The fake Paul wrote “Live and Let Die”, the new AWK wrote “Music Is Worth Living For”, the fake Elvis gave us Bubba Ho-Tep, the fake Avril gave us, well… I don’t know what she gave us, but I’m okay with all of these things.

There’s something particular about musicians, we like them dangerous, we like them real. It’s Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil, it’s Ozzy Osbourne as the Prince of Darkness (and not a doddering old addict). it’s Alice Cooper as a horror movie character and not a golfing Christian. We take that artifice seriously, maybe too seriously. When we think that they need to use a lookalike in order to deal with fame, maybe it’s fame we should be rethinking.

The Sunspot song this week plays around with the idea of the evil twin. Someone that looks like you that’s doing all the things that you don’t dare to. Are they acting out your worse impulses are they living your life better than you are? Is your doppelgänger the one who deserves your life because he won’t waste it? That’s part of the inspiration behind this week’s paranormal Sunspot track, “Doppelgänger”.

There’s a fetch who’s got my face
Doing things I’d never do
Saying the things I cannot say
Vandalizing the truth

Who’s the real
and who’s the fake
I gotta know before this psyche breaks

Doppelgänger

There’s an impostor
playing tricks on me
A psychopath
with my identity
There’s a counterfeit
walking round in my skin
My personality splits
Who is the Evil Twin?

Who’s My double, my alter ego
just a carbon copy
But in the end there’s only one
it’s either him or me

Who’s the real
and who’s the fake
I gotta know before this psyche breaks

Doppelgänger

There’s an impostor
playing tricks on me
A psychopath
with my identity
There’s a counterfeit
walking round in my skin
My personality splits
Who is the Evil Twin?

214 – Angels Sound Like Yoda: Channeling with Danielle Egnew

Danielle Egnew clearly remembers cuddling up into her aunt’s skirts when she was two years old, afraid of her big scary uncle Dominick who was looming over her.  She remembers how her aunt looked, she remembers the color of the skirt, she remembers the physical feeling. 

Danielle Egnew, when she ran for Billings, Montana mayor in 2017

When Danielle was seventeen, she shared that memory with her mother. But her mother told her that it wasn’t possible. Danielle’s aunt had already passed away at the time. So, who was in her memory? 

Danielle Egnew has been seeing spirits and listening to otherworldly voices from the wilds of Montana since she was a child. She could hear the tonal, musical sounds of the angels and feel the “blacker than black” shapes of demons in her teens. Her muse led her to form a band and she spent the late 90s and early 2000s performing and touring with her group, Pope Jane.

Make sure you watch this video to enjoy a pop-rock blast from the past. As someone who lived through the music and fashion scene of the late 90’s (and it’s unique sartorial choices), it was fun visiting (but not sure I’d want to live there again!)

In the mid-200s as the music industry was changing, Danielle decided to finally embrace the entities that had been speaking to her all her life and a chance reading for the Burbank Police Department in the case of a missing child put her on the path of becoming a professional psychic and angelic channel. So what does that mean?

She describes her work as more of a “translation service” than anything else. She can receive the messages that these angels and extra-dimensional creatures have for us and she shares them with her clients and audiences. While she continues to write and perform music, create art, and do personal readings for those looking for assistance from beyond, her latest project is the “Ascension Tour” where she is doing live translations of these mystical communications for audiences. 

If you’re interested in becoming more in tune with “whatever is out there”, then you’ll enjoy this episode. Danielle goes into detail with what it’s like to be a receiver, how the messages show up, what they sound like, and ways to make it easier to “hear what the universe has to say”. Some of the topics we cover in our conversation:

  • How angels “sound like Yoda” when they talk
  • What it’s like to grow up with a paranormal radio in your head
  • How all artists can be channels for the other side
  • Is there a Hell? Her answer might be a little different than you expect
  • What happens to pure souls with faulty biology (how some humans are broken robots)?
  • Her tips for getting in touch with your psychic side

Check out Danielle Egnew’s website to find out out how you can be part of the live Ascension tour and how you can get in touch with her.

I think that the most interesting thing that Danielle said to me is that human spirits are basically good, it’s the machinery of the body that’s broken. So there isn’t any Hell really. We have a second chance the next time around, even if we’re evil, even if we’re mentally ill. Even if there’s some kind of imbalance, we are capable of being forgiven. 

That reminds me of the legend of Tannhäuser, someone who the Pope said his staff had a better chance of growing new leaves than of God forgiving him. Well, what happens is that the staff ends up blooming, but it’s too late. No one is beyond redemption, no one is unworthy of forgiveness if they are penitent.

What does it mean if there is no Hell? What does it mean if the Universe doesn’t care about justice? What does that say about Free Will? Anyway, just some questions to ponder as you listen to our latest Sunspot track, “Bury It With Me”.

A polluted genealogy
colonized my head
And if vengeance isn’t mine
then anger has no end

a faulty biology
for this blood shed
and if karma is a lie
then you never can forget

Redemption is tears in the rain
sometime before sacred and after profane
So when the sleeper wakes up from the dream
a thousand years have disappeared in the land of the Faerie Queene

as the sinner begs his penance
these wet androids come to me
when there’s no one left to blame
then we’re just broken machines

Oh, bury it with me

213 – The Autumnal Equinox: Legends and Superstitions

When people who live in less temperate subtropical climates talk about how they “miss the seasons” they’re really talking about Fall and Spring. And Autumn is something to behold: the landscape canvas as colors change on the trees, the refreshing briskness of the air, it’s life’s last gasp before the cold dead of Winter. Traditionally on September 21st, 22d, or 23rd the Autumnal Equinox is when it starts getting darker every day in the Northern Hemisphere, which is depressing. But it’s also a time for great food, bonfire parties, and celebrating reaping the harvest from the work done earlier in the year.

It’s also when ancient peoples believed that the Veil started becoming thinner between our world and the spirit world, so of course we love it because it’s the beginning of the Halloween season. Some people say you’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day, we say that’s when you start wearing costumes!

Check out this sweet fantasy art, it’s “Modron” by Shanina Conway

It’s also a cool Holiday for neo-Pagans called Mabon (we just decided to say it “May-bone” because that’s an acceptable pronunciation and it sounds more badass). Mabon was stolen from his mother Modron (the Welsh mother goddess who brings life to the world) when he was only three days old. He was taken to the Underworld and that’s why we have winter because the Mother Goddess was peeved at her child being stolen. Funny enough, that’s super similar to the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. WHOA, could that be more cross-cultural pollination We explore that and a lot more in this episode which was a topic requested by one of our Patreon members (thanks for the idea, Chuck!)

Who’s that cool guy wearing Blu Blockers and sitting on Hadrian’s Wall? Oh wait, it’s me!

Some of the other topics we cover in this episode:

  • Will you cast a shadow at noon on the day of the Equinox?
  • How you can perform a magic ritual with just an apple
  • How much it costs to party at Stonehenge on an equinox
  • Why Medieval Jews thought it wasn’t safe to drink the water during the Autumnal Equinox
  • Is it really easier to balance an egg during an Equinox?

For the song this week, we picked out the legend of Mabon because in one of the variations of the tale, he is saved by King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Mabon was stolen and taken beyond Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman barrier meant to hold off the native Britons that they couldn’t conquer. Arthur and his men needed the help of several magical animals in order to break Mabon out of his prison and they freed the child who would eventually own Arthur in battle.

Well, when you’ve got King Arthur and magical animals to work with, we couldn’t miss out on that! And it just wouldn’t be a British-influenced song unless we made it a little Iron Maiden-eqsue. So here’s the Sunspot take on the story of Mabon, “Beyond The Wall”.

In the land of the Savage,
a barbarian horde
lies the child of the Goddess
to become the Harvest Lord.

The scales of light and dark in perfect balance
the son of Modron will com to take his vengeance

We ride
we fight
We hear
the call,
to save
the child
beyond
the Wall
beyond the Wall.

With the power of the Stag
and the wisdom of the Salmon.
The Knights of the Round,
have come for the Green Man.

The scales of light and dark in perfect balance
the son of Modron will come to take his vengeance

We ride
we fight
We hear
the call,
to save
the child
beyond
the Wall
beyond the Wall.