All posts by Mike Huberty

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

68 – Buried at The Crossroads: Superstitions and Myths About Suicide

The topic this week is a difficult one to approach. It’s very personal and it’s about as unpleasant as they come. It’s just something that we don’t like to talk about. And during the Holiday season where it’s treated as a fact that more suicides occur than at any other time of year, it’s a topic that we thought was worth discussing.

Just to say something right away, if you ever have serious thoughts about harming yourself, please talk to someone as soon as possible. You don’t have to be alone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a ton of resources and people that are ready to talk to you 24 hours a day.

I became interested in the lack of conversation about suicide when I worked at a television station in the early ‘Aughts and there was a suicide cluster in a nearby town that we didn’t cover on the news. It seemed like something we should be tackling versus hiding, but they were worried that the more attention was given, the more chances of it happening again. There may be some truth to that, but since it feels like such a topic that we shy away from due to its uncomfortable nature, I wondered whether or not it was a good idea.

But one of the first myths about suicide we can dispel is the increase in suicidal activity over the Holiday season, which isn’t true at all, suicide rates actually decline over the Holiday season. That’s kind of one of those “facts” that people just believe kind of like the idea that more people get arrested when it’s a full moon than at different times of the month, even though that doesn’t actually happen. In a Psychology Today article, it says:

One of the primary buffers of stress and depression is our social identity. The holidays, if anything, maximize social connection for most people. Hence, suicide rates are lower. Heat also is associated with higher suicide rates. And for most people, the Christmas holiday season isn’t exactly a scorching hot affair. Even in hot climates, this time of year isn’t especially hot relative to the rest of the year (think Florida in the winter, warm, but not hot).

And when it comes to the paranormal and ghost stories, suicide victims are overrepresented. Even in Madison where we live, ghosts of suicides are said to inhabit two of the theaters downtown as well as the state Capitol. The idea that spirits will become restless after killing themselves is an old ghost story trope and it comes from the Christian view of taking one’s own life.

And the Devil appears, behind all of our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors…

Indeed, in an article in Cult Nation, writer Mark Laskey makes a big deal of the “Rules of Desecration” where in Christianity, suicide didn’t just become a sin, but it was the Devil himself who was causing these people to take their own lives, and suicides from Germany to England would be buried in different parts of the cemetery, or at crossroads, because it was thought that the restless spirit would wake up confused and not know which way to go when it came out of the ground. They would further outcast the body of the poor soul by not dignifying it with a proper burial.

Also, crossroads were supposed to be places where witches met and portals to the next world. Not surprising to us, since we talked about the famous Robert Johnson Crossroads in our very first episode, “Making A Deal With The Devil”. But it was legal in England until the 1820s to bury a suicide victim at a crossroads and put a stake through his heart(!) Right, that’s incredible. The last person buried like that was in 1823 and his heart was actually staked to prevent him coming back as a vampire. Of course we still associate so much stigma with this act, people believed at one time it might create a monster in death. So much so that they felt free to desecrate the corpse.

And in Western Society, we still associate suicide with the demonic. The opening of M. Night Shyamalan’s Devil shows a suicide as bringing the Devil forth, half the people that Damian manipulates in The Omen (which was the inspiration for Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast”)  end up killing themselves, and in Wristcutters: A Love Story, suicides are sent to a special Purgatory to contemplate their sins.

So, no wonder that Ozzy Osbourne was sued for his song, “Suicide Solution” in 1984 after California teenager John Daniel McCollum shot and killed himself and the parents saw the record spinning next to his dead body. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed and Ozzy to his credit, did sympathize with the parents, but said that the song was about alcohol and the death of Ozzy’s friend, Bon Scott (whose ghost we talk about in our interview with rock journalist, Susan Masino).

When I was younger, I thought it was ridiculous to sue an artist for the death of your child. And while I feel the lawsuit was frivolous, I believe Ozzy knew that the song would be provocative. Heavy metal deals with transgressive themes, it’s all about provocation. People who are disturbed are going to pick up on that. Poor John Daniel McCollum needed help. Ozzy isn’t responsible for his death, but provocative themes can set people off. As an artist, you need to understand that your work can have a powerful effect. It doesn’t make it your fault when something horrible happens, but the effect shouldn’t be denied either. Ozzy was deliberately transgressing traditional morality in those years and that comes with consequences , whether it was just for marketing or not. But that’s just my opinion, I know that your mileage may vary on that one.

Japanese culture famously thinks differently about suicide than Western culture. Seppuku, or ritual suicide, was a way for a Samurai to die with honor rather than die by his enemy’s hand or bring shame upon his family. With conformity and acceptance being two traits highly prized in the culture, many people believe it is more honorable to kill themselves as a way to preserve their legacy.

There’s a forest in Japan near Mount Fuji called Aokigahara , but is also known as “The Suicide Forest” where dozens of people go each year to end their lives. There’s a sign at the front encouraging people to think about their families and there’s been several films made about it (including one with Matthew McConaughey!)

Hangings and overdoses are the most common forms of suicide at Aokigahara

Could certain places be cursed and encourage people to hurt themselves? That was the theory of a Ontario-based paranormal group that did an investigation at Prince Edward Viaduct in Toronto which is the city’s most popular place for suicides (I liken it to the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis) and they wanted to discover whether they could find more paranormal activity there than other places. The investigation didn’t turn anything up, but it was an interesting thought. Do certain places attract people to hurt themselves? Or can just hearing about a place put the idea in a suicidal person’s head?

When I first heard David Lee Roth talk about what “Jump” was about, I was a little shocked. He said that when he was coming up with the lyrics he thought of a news report the night before with a man threatening to leap off a building to his death. When a crowd formed below him, Roth said that there’s always some guy watching who says, “Might as well jump! Go ahead and jump!” Yeah, bet you’ll never hear the song the same way again. That’s why it ended up on Clear Channel’s suggested list of songs not to play after September 11th.

While many family members of the victims will go see mediums and psychics afterwards to try and get some comfort (here’s actually a hopeful article from Erin Pavlina who was married to a self-help author that Wendy and I both liked to read a few years ago), I hope these mediums really believe in the messages they’re getting because there’s a special place in Hell for people who try to exploit another human being’s sadness. And there is little that could be sadder than losing a loved one to this.

And it’s a scary and uncomfortable thing to talk about, but sometimes we absolutely need to. Otherwise it gets shrouded in superstition and myth, and that stigmatizes the people who need to talk about it the most.

This week’s song is “Dig Your Grave” from Sunspot, which was unfortunately inspired by the loss of one of our friends. It’s a track about forgiving someone you love’s suicide, “Dig Your Grave” is about letting it go. Frustration, sadness, anger, and hate add up to eventual understanding and finally, acceptance of what happened. We made a video for it using clips from LOST (so don’t watch if you care about getting spoiled for that show), you can also listen to the track right here.

This one is for fans of Concrete Blonde or early 90’s alternative, that’s really the sounds we evoked when we were creating it.

I guess we all could have used a little less irony,
and a little more Polyanna.
I’m praying for the proof that there’s something worthy,
to come from the black hole of your sadness.
So is it better on the other side, the other side of the door?
And on the final ride, the final ride, you found what you’re looking for?
How you must ache,
The way you went and left us all behind.
I’ll dig your grave,
if it quiets down the screaming in your mind.
If it quiets down the screaming in your mind.Yes, we forgave you in your eulogy,
What did you think that we would say?
Did you hope that all our anguish,
would make up for all your pain?
Did you see this in your letter,
did you know how it would go?
The way Mom pleaded with God,
and the way Dad hardly speaks anymore.
So is it better on the other side, the other side of the door?
And on the final ride, the final ride, you found what you’re looking for?
How you must ache,
The way you went and left us all behind.
I’ll dig your grave,
if it quiets down the screaming in your mind.Nothing will ever be the same,
and this was a living Hell.
I tried but I could never hate you,
as much as you hated yourself.
Nothing could ever be the same,
and this was a living Hell.
I tried but I could never hate you,
as much as you hated yourself.Tell me it’s better on the other side, the other side of the door?
And on the final ride, your final ride, you found what you’re looking for.How you must ache,
The way you went and left us all behind.
I’ll dig your grave,
if it quiets down the screaming in your mind.
How you must ache,
The way you went and left us all behind.
I’ll dig your grave,
if it quiets down the screaming in your mind.

If it quiets down the screaming in your mind.
If it quiets down the screaming in your mind.
If it quiets down the screaming in your mind.
If it quiets down the screaming in your mind.

67 – Satanic Thanksgiving: The Invisible World of The Pilgrims

What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Pilgrims and Native Americans, right? Coming together to overcome a weak harvest in Plymouth, Massachussetts and learning to accept one another in a spirit of peace. Yep, that sounds about right. The story of the first Thanksgiving is a nice one, except when you think about who the Pilgrims actually were and the invisible world they lived in alongside the real one…

Your mother probably is getting this tablecloth out right now…

Yes, they were brave leaving their homes and settling in the New World and don’t worry that this one of those Revisionist History posts where we’re going to mythologize Native Americans as saintly good guys and the Puritans as evil invaders, because the truth of things is never Black and White. But at the same time, it’s important to acknowledge exactly what the Puritans were.

They believed that the Church of England hadn’t gone far enough in eliminating Catholic influence on English religious life. The Protestant Reformation begun by Martin Luther in Germany had a huge influence on the Puritans, who felt that while it was great that the Church of England had separated from the Catholic Church (all because Henry VIII wanted to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his buddy the Pope wouldn’t let him do it! And I made a HUGE error in this podcast, too, thinking that the Lion in Winter was all about Henry VIII’s situation, I even namecheck Peter O’ Toole, when I was thinking about a Man For All SeasonsIn my head, I just conjured one of those great scenes with O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn at each other’s throats and was thinking that was the conflict between Catherine and Henry VIII, instead of Henry II  and Eleanor of Aquitaine, so I apologize for being so boneheaded on that reference!)

Okay, so the Puritans were religious extremists who left England, first for Holland, and then for North America and the ones that stayed were a major player in the English Civil War that left King Charles I headless (in fact, the Civil War was considered a “Puritan Revolution” for a long time.) So, why is that important? Well, I think it’s important to understand how deep these people’s faiths ran. They were Calvinists (named after French Protestant philosopher John Calvin, who’s also the namesake of the 80s cartoon character.)

calvin and hobbes
Humanity exists in never-ending depravity, doncha think Hobbes?

So why does John Calvin matter? Because in his version of Christianity, doing nice things for people doesn’t get you into Heaven. In fact, God has already picked who’s going (the Elected, they called themselves), and humans don’t have Free Will, so it doesn’t matter anyway because some of us are predestined to go to Hell. Sounds kind of like a drag, but it’s something that people still discuss today. For a more modern take on Free Will, neuroscientist Sam Harris wrote a fascinating book on it (and of course, if you’d like an alternate take on it, you should probably listen to this song, just for the live bass solo alone!)

And Calvin also said that people constantly exist in a state of depravity that came down from our first sin in the Garden of Eden when Eve ate the apple, so humans are naturally bad. These people were surrounded by evil all the time. If humans are evil by their very nature and the only good ones are going to Heaven are the people in your religious community, well, there’s gonna be a lot of distrust of other people. To the Pilgrims, God punished you in this world for not being pious enough or for your sins, and the Devil was around you at all times.

Most of us in the modern age would consider the Pilgrims crazy and religious fanatics, they ran away from their own country to start a Utopian colony on the other side of the world. There’s another religious sect that did that and it ended with some poison Kool-Aid.

Because they always thought the Devil was surrounding them and could be in the form of their neighbor or anyone else, they tended to be incredibly superstitious. And they believed the Wilderness was the Devil’s Land, so forming a colony in the wilds of New England was something that was extremely dangerous. Yes, it was dangerous, but because they weren’t equipped to found colony, or is it because Satan was stalking them at every turn?

If you ever see horseshoes over a New England house, that’s the continuation of a Puritan superstition that witches don’t like horses (one of the reasons they ride brooms.) But these are the same people who thought that if you had rats in your home, you could get rid of them by writing a little note and if the rats ate it, they would leave (those are some smart, American Tail-style rats there).

The Thanksgiving that we often associate with the Native Americans and Pilgrims eating together is a really nice story. But the truth is that the Native American who could speak English and negotiated for the peace, Squanto (who had been captured on a previous slaving expedition which is why he had knowledge of the language), also ended up exploiting the natives’ fear of the English and it’s theorized that he was eventually poisoned by them.

16 years after that first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims led an expedition to kill 700 Pequot men, women, and children during their Green Corn Dance. The Massachussetts Bay governor then declared a “Day of Giving Thanks” to celebrate the military victory. The Puritans weren’t afraid to take things by force because they could find Biblical justification for it.

Some people take a nap after Thanksgiving Dinner, the Pilgrims went to war…

And in a world full of Devil’s servants, no one stoked Satanic Panic more than the Mather family. Increase Mather was one of New England’s leading pastors in the mid-Seventeenth Century (and his silly name was in reference to the idea that everything in New England was getting bigger at the time, more settlers in the colony, more space as they took over new lands, and more of God’s favor…) Mather believed that God showed his pleasure and displeasure with the colonists directly and wrote about the way that the invisible world of the supernatural affected everyday life.

Increase Mather… looking like he’s about to get the party started!

Between the writings of him and his son, Cotton, anther popular minister, they had old school “You’re Gonna Burn in Hell” fire and brimstone sermons down. Cotton had written about the last woman hanged in Boston for witchcraft (really for being Catholic) in his pamphlet, Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions and would later write about the Salem Witch Trials, which is the tragedy of what he’s remembered for most in The Wonders of the Invisible World. Observations as Well Historical as Theological, upon the Nature, the Number, and the Operations of the Devils.

The Salem Witch Trials would end in the execution of 20 people and both Cotton and Increase Mather would write pamphlets and books defending the fearful worldview that ended up contributing to the deaths. We’ll give the Witch Trials their full due in its own episode, but it’s worth noting that this is the end result of Puritanical Righteousness.

Here, you can brush up a little bit on the Witch Trials as metaphor for the House Un-American Activities Committee, now that’s a good way to spend the day!

At the same time while the Puritans might have been crazy when it came to the Devil, they also paved the way for democracy in the United States, because laypeople electing their religious leaders was an important tenet of Calvinism and they laid the foundations for many of the ideals of our modern government. Like any history, there’s two sides to the story and they left us both negative and positive influences. In fact, Calvinism has been linked to the success of capitalism in the world. So, while they might have given us witches  and hysteria, they also might be responsible for the smartphone and elevation of billions of humans from the kind of life that Calvin’s comic books partner, Thomas Hobbes, would have described as “nasty, brutish, and short.”

This episode’s song is inspired by Cotton Mather’s work, “The Wonders Of The Invisible World”, telling the story of the invisible war between God and the Devil happening all around us all the time.

We were chosen
for this moment
We were chosen for this land
We are elected to be perfected
Our conscience clean as Pilate’s hands.

The Devil asks a penny
but he’ll always take a pound
He knows all your secrets,
and he loves to drag you down.

So watch out for drunken sailors
so Watch out for dirty girls,
But if you let me please,
I can show you these,
Wonders of the Invisible World.

I know the monsters that you’ve dreamt
I’ve seen the hands that torment
But this is all part of all the plan divine,
to test your faith ’til you’re burned alive.

The Devil asks a penny
but he’ll always take a pound
He knows all your secrets,
and he loves to drag you down.

So watch out for drunken sailors
so Watch out for dirty girls,
But if you let me please,
I can show you these,
Wonders of the Invisible World.

66 – Exploring Cryptozoology: A Panel with Linda Godfrey, J. Nathan Couch, and Jay Bachochin

Cryptozoology is the study of creatures that are only rumored to exist. “Crypto” is ancient Greek for “hidden” or “secret” and “zoology” is the study of animals. So, right there, the word defines itself – cryptozoology is the study of hidden or secret animals. These secret animals are called “cryptids”. The suffix “-id” is another part of language derived from Greek to mean “belonging to” or classified as – think the word “hybrid”, belonging to two things – a cryptid is something that is classified as hidden or secret. Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Chupacabra, and the Thunderbird are all examples of cryptids.

While there are plenty of legends and myths surrounding most cryptids, Cryptozoology is more science than magic. While new large animal species are discovered only rarely (as compared to insects, where it seems like new species are discovered all the time), it’s not unheard of for them to be discovered, particularly underwater. The most famous example of this is the Coelacanth, a fish that scientists thought was extinct for millions of years, but it turns out that we just weren’t looking deep enough into the ocean.

It’s so ugly, WHY did we want to find it again?

Even the kangaroo was thought of as a mythical beast at one time. When people brought back reports of a man-sized hopping animal that had two heads (one at the top and one by their stomach) people thought it was crazy. But by now, pretty much all of us have probably at least seen a kangaroo in a zoo, maybe even with a joey in its pouch. Mythical beast? Not really. Just more cute than anything else. The Komodo Dragon, Giant Squid, and even the Mountain Gorilla were all rumored at one time to be figments of overactive imaginations. Now we know better.

It’s a two-headed hopping monster! AGHGGHHHHHHHHHHH!

In this episode, we bring together three honest-to-goodness experts in the field of cryptozoology. While there are no accredited programs in the field currently, our intrepid panel has taken it upon themselves to dedicate much of their lives to understanding these mysteries and we respect their scholarship and field research.

Linda Godfrey uncovered tales of an upright wolf creature in Elkhorn, WI in the early 1990s called the Bray Road Beast. Since then she’s become a leader in the field when it comes to mysterious beasts and strange phenomena. J. Nathan Couch is the author of two books on paranormal topics His latest is the Goatman: Flesh or Folklore. And last, but not least is a Jay Bachochin, a Wisconsin researcher who hunts the truth, and one of the hardest working investigators out there in the field of Bigfoot research. He has clocked countless hours searching for the unknown.

The revolution will be webcast...
The revolution will be webcast…

So, it’s our biggest discussion ever as Wendy, Allison, and I share the table with our experts. From Mammoth Cave to Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine, Ireland’s Blarney Castle, and more, everyone retells their favorite stories as well as personal brushes with the uncanny that have had a big impact on our lives. Jay even tries to call Bigfoot with a special Sasquatch Call, so make sure to listen to this one with headphones on, because you don’t want to attract Bigfoot to your home!

Looking for Bigfoot? Just blow on this!
Looking for Bigfoot? Just blow on this!

No wonder we love monsters, no wonder we’re in awe of the unknowable. People love a mystery (remember LOST, I know you do and I miss it too, at least the good seasons), and we are in love with the notion that maybe that’s not all there is. If there are creatures out there that we cannot find, then maybe we don’t have it all figured out. Maybe the world is bigger than we can categorize or pinpoint, maybe we just want some romance back in our lives, where not everything is quantified and classified. A life’s work of searching for the unknown at least on its surface, feels much more meaningful than shuffling paper back and forth or analyzing spreadsheets. Because that sure doesn’t feel like a life’s work.†

Whatever post-Industrial Revolution Hell we’ve created for ourselves with factories churning out pollution to make trinkets that we don’t want, food that we’re told is bad for us, and vocations that are only meaningful in their relation to profits certainly could use a little mystery, couldn’t it?

And that’s what this week’s song is about, “Mystery” by Sunspot.

I met a girl who used to dance with some flowers in her hair, barefoot in the street to a song that seemed
only she could hear.
Well, we talked all night about wrong and right,
we talked the Bible and prophecy.
She said she don’t care to what God I swear,
as long as I don’t tell her what to believe.

She said

When we know all there is to know,
and there’s nothing left to comprehend,
when you think you found what you’re looking for,
I believe it’s time you think again.
Don’t try so hard to understand,
the things you don’t need your eyes to see.
For knowing it all ain’t part of the plan,
so just enjoy the mystery.

I met an old man who used to laugh,
at some gag I couldn’t hear,
out loud and big, while he took a swig,
with some joker that wasn’t there.
Well, he lectured me on our frailty,
the difference between man and divine,
so don’t waste your breath talking ’bout your death,
you’ll live longer than you are alive.

He said

When we know all there is to know,
and there’s nothing left to comprehend,
when you think you found what you’re looking for,
I believe it’s time you think again.
Don’t try so hard to understand,
the things you don’t need your eyes to see.
For knowing it all ain’t part of the plan,
so just enjoy the mystery.

65 – Shadow People: Dark Entities In The Internet Age

Human shadows moving around where no material objects are there to cast them. The silhouette of a man in the corner wearing a fedora, watching you. A form that refuses to reflect light with glowing red eyes that you feel is feeding on your emotions. When you do a Google search for shadow people now, you’ll see thousands of eyewitness accounts across the Internet of people who have experienced these unknowable entities.

And of course, humans have been seeing strange shadows in the corners of their eyes and under weird lighting circumstances for centuries. It’s baked into our DNA to be terrified of the dark and to be alerted by a strange motion. We are not instinctual predators and are ill-equipped by nature to fight tigers, bears, and wolves. We have our brains and each other, and the more active our imaginations were, the more likely we were to survive in the jungle. So, we get used to our minds and eyes playing tricks on us. So much so, that we’re not normally afraid when we see a strange shadow.

While we might have been able to reference almost every culture having legends about ghosts, vampires, or demons, there are few ancient myths about shadows and certainly not the mythology that we have today regarding them. When we point to the rise of certain paranormal beliefs in the Modern Era, we can often directly reference a cause and the root of each. Like Spiritualism after the American Civil War and its revival post-World War I leading to our idea of a medium channeling and speaking with the voices of the dead. Or the UFO mythology that was created in the 1940s and 1950s (with the help of United States intelligence services as well) through flying saucer sightings and alien invasion movies. Even some of our more modern mythology, like the kind espoused in The X-Files, Taken, or Men In Black traces its roots to Area 51, government conspiracies, and alien abductions. And those came directly from mystery shows like Unsolved Mysteries and books like Intruders and Communion. And those are all part of the old era of mass media, where the communication was one way. The consumer listened to the story that they were broadcast to, they didn’t take part in the narrative. When it comes to the popularity of shadow people, we can point to the radio program Coast To Coast AM and learn about the first supernatural legend to arise in the Internet Age.

Coast to Coast AM is a good example of a radio show that is driven by the listeners as much as by the producers. The original host, Art Bell, didn’t even broadcast from radio station, just his home studio, located in the Nevada desert. He didn’t have a call screener or a producer with him, he would just interview an author or a paranormal expert and on Fridays usually, the entirety of the show would be calls from listeners telling their stories and asking questions.

Paranormal O.G. Art Bell. And if you see an orb in this picture, it’s just smoke. For real…

While we’ll have to have a special tribute to the show one day (after all, it is the grandaddy of all paranormal podcasts), for now, it suffices to say the program at one time had the second biggest listenership in United States’ radio, topped only by Rush Limbaugh. It was a show driven by its audience and that’s the reason it was so instrumental in the development of the shadow people legend.

Listeners had been calling into the program for several years describing their experiences seeing shadows and in 2001, Art Bell actually wanted to feature those experiences in a special program. He put out the call for people’s stories and the floodgates opened up. He was inundated with stories and drawings, so many that it he felt that it just couldn’t be swept away with explanations of sleep paralysis or hallucinations anymore.

Shortly afterwards, an author named Heidi Hollis came forth with a book called Secret War: A True Story About The Real Alien War and Shadow People. She brought an entire mythology and belief system explaining where the shadows come from and how they’re using humans in an alien war. Others started classifying the shadows that they saw.

Heidi Hollis’ book fueled a thousand stories of the shadow people…

There was the mysterious shadow with the fedora called “The Hat Man” who fed on your fear, there were the shadows with the glowing red eyes, there were hooded shadows that looked like ancient monks, shadows that seemed to draw out negative emotions and cultivate them, etc… And all the while, Internet forums are abuzz with people reporting new experiences and sharing stories. The Information Age created a new set of demons that don’t have to be associated with any type of religious practice. You don’t have to be crazy to see a shadow in the corner of your eye.

Not long after that, Shadow People become common to Creepypasta, a community dedicated to cutting and pasting scary short stories for each other and sharing them on social media. It’s gone from anecdotal stories on a radio show to a  worldwide Bogeyman in a record amount of time.

And if you’re not interested in how our modern legends get created and propagated, what makes shadow people so terrifying? Just someone that has seen a shadow person and you’ll find out pretty fast. It’s not just a shadow, it’s the feeling that accompanies it. One of the guests on our show, Patrick Doyle, from Ghost Mine, even says that his first paranormal experience as a child was with a shadow person (the infamous “Hat Man”) and when he showed the shadow that he wasn’t afraid of it, he could feel it becoming angry at him. Like it needed his fear.

And this is where I should step out of the paranormal closet myself and say, that yes, I have seen a shadow person myself. I consider it the most unexplainable experience of my life and it’s a story that I’ve told my friends countless times. I tell it again to Wendy in the podcast, so if you want the full experience, make sure that you listen to the episode.

Back in the summer of 1993, I was a hot-to-trot sixteen years old, just a month into getting my driver’s license (failed the first time, damn!), and hanging out at my friends’ house doing what all cool sixteen year-olds do and that’s participating in some tabletop role-playing games. Not Dungeons & Dragons mind you, not that that game isn’t awesome, but we were pretending we were spies in a little-remembered game (probably because the rules were much more complicated and silly) called Top Secret: S.I.. It was me, two other guys and two girls and it was a really intense gaming session. Of course, one of the dudes was with his girlfriend, so he was always trying to have his character make out with her character (bad form if you ask me), but the game isn’t the point. That’s why we were hanging out, but the guy whose house it was said that he wanted to take us out into the marsh by his house to show us something. He said he knew of a weird tree that we had to check out.

Alright, well, I’m sixteen years old and someone tells me that they’re going to show me a paranormal tree… of course I agree to it. I was always up for checking out a haunted spot or a place where people said there were weird happenings going on, so I was way into it.

It was pretty late into the evening at this point on a Saturday night, maybe 10pm or so, and we walk down to the entrance to this marsh near my friend’s house. Now this place was rural and there were some horrible things that happened there, but it wasn’t untouched, there was a pathway in and I had been there before in the daytime with other friends. It was a popular hunting and wildlife spot. So we start walking towards this “Demon Tree”. It’s a summer night in Southeastern Wisconsin, about 75 degrees, and it’s a full moon, so it’s pretty easy to see and I don’t need a flashlight.

The group splits into two segments, I’m walking with the two girls and the other two guys are behind us about ten yards or so. We get about a half mile down the path when I see a sign with hunting rules and the regulations of the nature area. And that’s when I stop, because against that sign I see a shape. Looks like a person standing in front of the sign, but there’s no person there. I can read the rest of the sign clearly, but right there in the middle is just the shape of a person, and that shape is not reflecting any light.

I blink a couple of times, thinking that I’m just seeing things and I turn to the girls I’m walking with. They’re both staring at the sign and not saying a word. In a flash, they both run away crying towards the other guys (of course they’re not looking to me for comfort, but I can’t really blame them on that one, ha.) I turn back, it’s still there. Not moving, I get a sense of dread in that moment. I turn away and look again, and it’s gone. By this point, the other guys have caught up, the girls are freaking out, and I don’t know what to think. The girls describe what they saw, and it’s exactly what I did. There was a black human shadow against the sign and now it’s gone. They felt evil there, I didn’t. I’ll freely admit I’m not the world’s most sensitive man. I did feel something, but it could be just that Lovecraftian dread of the unknowable that can blow your mind sometimes.

We investigate around the sign (walking towards it slowly), one of the guys shines a flashlight on the grass below and says it’s matted down like someone was standing there, but I’m thinking, “What does this guy know?” He’s not some tracker or anything (today I’d probably say, “Hey Darryl Dixon, what the Hell do you know?”)

We went back many times after that night. On other trips, people said they had seen something similar, but I never see anything quite like that again. I know I saw something and those other girls saw it too. It is easily my most unexplainable encounter. Well, paranormal encounter at least, romantically, I have a whole slew of mysteries that I can’t quite explain… or defend, that might be a better way of putting it.

Lest you think Hollywood has been ignoring the shadow people, they definitely haven’t. While it predates the internet phenomena, there’s an episode of the new Twilight Zone featuring an evil shadow man that hurts children.

Joe Dante’s Twilight Zone Episode, “The Shadow Man” – could this be the origin of the “Hat Man”?

And in 2013 a movie came out called Shadow People featuring Clint Eastwood’s daughter and a actor best known for The Walking Dead and for once a movie we talk about here is well-reviewed. But even that doesn’t fail to acknowledge the origin of its stories, YouTube videos feature predominantly in the film.

Shadow People are a demon for a new age, even more real because the majority of stories that surround them happen to common people. Spreading across the Internet organically like folk tales used to spread, through people telling their own stories of what they’ve seen and what they’ve heard.

This episode’s song is “Shadow” by Sunspot and is inspired by the discussion. We all know people who have been reduced to a fraction of the person they once were, all the good parts are gone, and all that’s left is the darkness. The shadow.

How sick you need to be?
How far down you need to go?
How cruel do you want to seem?
Before you finally have to go.
cuz when you hit
you’ll hit until it hurts
you’ll bleed until you’re empty
you’ll struggle and you’ll curse
against your fragility.
all the kings horses, all the kings men
cannot break your fall
you’re just a shadow on the wall
Can your soul be born again?
until your demons let you go
you’re just the shadow of who I used to know
Do you remember the curtain close
or the ending of the joke?
Do you remember remember clutching my throat
the moment your conscience broke
How about the downward spiral
or the years of denial
do you remember every time
you promised not another time?
cuz when you hit
you’ll hit until it hurts
you’ll bleed until you’re empty
you’ll struggle and you’ll curse
against your fragility.
all the kings horses, all the kings men
cannot break your fall
you’re just a shadow on the wall
Can your soul be born again?
until your demons let you go
you’re just the shadow of who I used to know
all the kings horses, all the kings men
cannot break your fall
you’re just a shadow on the wall
Can your soul be born again?
until your demons let you go
you’re just the shadow of who I used to know

 

64 – Ghost Hunting 2.0: Chris Bores and The Rules of The Dead

Chris Bores is mostly known for his YouTube comedy videos as The Irate Gamer where he plays through vintage video games, reviews them, and gets angry every time he dies in the game.  While he’s gotten millions of views for his video game work, his paranormal investigation is what inspired his book, Ghost Hunting 2.0: Breaking New Groundsomething he’s been fascinated with since hearing unearthly footsteps in his grandparents’ house.

Bores describes himself as a “Paranormal Communicator” instead of  a ghost hunter and uses psychology, ancient texts like The Tibetan Book of the Deadand an EMF meter to talk to spirits.  Him and his partner, Alan Cicco, blog about their adventures on the website, Pursuit of the Paranormal.

Listen… do you smell something?

Chris goes into detail about some of his ghost hunts that led to his book, especially at the Saint Augustine Lighthouse in Florida, one of the Southeast’s most famous locations for haunted history. He tells us about Eliza, who has a crush on a tour guide at the lighthouse and the 90-minute conversation they had with her using an EMF meter, where they would lead her with questions and gauge her responses based on changes in the EMF meter.

The most famous of the electromagnetic field sensors, the K-2.

So, what is Ghost Hunting 2.0? With Chris it’s more about actually trying to have a conversation with the spirit, rather than just taking a photograph or finding evidence. To him, he’s interested in what they want. He describes his six classifications of spirits (confused, angry, hungry (for unfinished business, not for like ghost food or something), etc…) as well as what he calls the “Rules of the Dead” (that linked article has some cool details about Eliza at the Lighthouse too in the comments.)

Talking to one particular spirit, the ghost seemed to hint at a greater power that was trying to block them from talking to people. The idea that the dead are supposed to hide from us is his most intriguing one. We tend to think of ghosts being tied to a place because something happened traumatic there or they don’t know they’re dead and can’t move on. But what if spirits are all around us and most of  the time, they just aren’t supposed to talk to us and are just following the rules? That made me think of Vampire: The Masqueradewhich was a role-playing game I used to play in the 90s. Not just play it, I did live-action (LARPing, baby!)

But the idea of the Masquerade was that the most important thing to vampires is that YOU DON’T LET PEOPLE KNOW VAMPIRES ARE REAL. Wendy mentioned that kinda sounds like Fight Club as well. But the idea that ghosts don’t want us to know about them and someone or something is making spirits hide. Well, that’s pretty spooky isn’t it?

Make sure to check out Chris’ Facebook page and Twitter feed.

The song this episode is inspired by Chris’ rules. Because if spirits aren’t supposed to talk to humans then you have to say the things that you want to say now, today, and don’t wait, because once you’re gone, those words are forever lost. Here’s the track, “Rules of the Dead”.

I’m the one who never said goodbye,
I’m the flatliner that never told you why.
I thought that I could succeed where Orpheus had failed,
But there ain’t no coming back when you’ve broken through the veil.

Say what you want to,
don’t let them stop you,
go where you dream.
Love who will let you,
Don’t be afraid to,
No guarantees.
And don’t let all your words be left unsaid.
You can’t break the rules of the dead.

Look in my eye,
when you say goodbye
and say it like you mean it.
When you flatline, on the other side
you’ll be defeated

Say what you want to,
don’t let them stop you,
go where you dream.
Love who will let you,
Don’t be afraid to,
No guarantees.
And don’t let all your words be left unsaid.
You can’t break the rules of the dead.

You can’t break the rules of the dead.
You can’t break the rules of the dead.
You can’t break the rules of the dead.

63 – Devil’s Night: Mischief, Pranks, and Terror on The Eve of Halloween

It’s a very special episode of See You On The Other Side. This Halloween will be our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! How time flies when you’re exploring the unknown while writing songs about it!

And obviously, we love Halloween, so we got zombified and joined the cast of Rockford sitcom The Deadersons  and worked on a  special music video with them!

Brains... brains... brains...
Sunspot Zombified…

For this episode, we brought our friend and my Madison Ghost Walks guide, Lisa Van Buskirk into the studio with us (last heard in our episode at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference). Lisa and I went to go see Saint Maria Goretti when she came through Madison in mid-October. There’s a church in Madison that’s named after her and they were displaying the saint’s body. There was around 100 people waiting in line when we went around 10pm but the showing went all night and they expected around six thousand people to come visit her.

Mike and Lisa visit Saint Maria Goretti
Mike and Lisa visit Saint Maria Goretti

Her story is particularly brutal because she was a little girl who was raped and stabbed to death by her neighbor, but the crux of the story is that she would rather die than lose her virginal purity telling her attacker he shouldn’t because he’ll go to Hell and then she forgave him on her deathbed and said “I want him to be with me in paradise.” So it’s her saintly power of forgiveness and devotion to purity that made the Church want to recognize her (in 1950.)

Just a quick refresher, the Catholic Church says that anyone who makes it to Heaven is a “saint” but they recognize some people for special holiness and give them the title of “Saint”. She supposedly appeared to her attacker in prison and also people have claimed miracles from praying at the body of Saint Maria and her remains have been covered in wax and they take her on tour where people can pray with her body, who the Church now considers a relic.

Here is Saint Maria Goretti’s remains covered in wax…

Now, to the main topic of the episode… Pranks around the Halloween season just seem natural to me. I remember being read a Halloween story from a children’s book where there a group of people circled around the fire and the boys sang:

Needles and pins, needles and pins!
When Hallowe’en comes, your trouble begins.

while the girls sang:

Needles and pins, needles and pins!
When Hallowe’en comes, the fun begins.

Just saying that rhyme always scared me as a boy, and I finally found the story, by Josephine Scribner Gates, in a 1918 children’s magazine called St. Nicholas. You can read it online right here. But that just reinforced my belief that this was the season for mischief. While most of mine were stupid (toilet papering trees, saying silly things in wax crayons on people’s driveways), in other towns, pranks got real dangerous, especially in Detroit.

Yeah, looks all innocent and fun... for now.
Yeah, looks all innocent and fun… for now.

In Lisa’s other life, she’s a paramedic and firefighter and her birthday is the day before Halloween, October 30th. That’s the traditional day for Halloween pranks and in Detroit, where Lisa was born and raised, it’s known as Devil’s Night, the night you live up to the trick part of “trick or treat.” It’s known as Mischief Night in some places and Cabbage Night(?) in others, but either way it’s the same thing, “When Halloween comes, the trouble begins…” which was so eloquently stated in The Crow (a film that takes place in Detroit on Devil’s Night over two consecutive years) as “Fire it up! Fire it up! Fire it up!Fire it up!”

As the American auto industry faded around Motor City in the 1970s, more and more Detroit residents lost their jobs and more and more houses became abandoned. Well, when you’ve got plenty of houses where there’s no one living and when people were looking to cause some mayhem, they set those houses on fire. In 1984 alone, there were 800 fires set in Detroit. It became such a tradition that even Eminem’s rap group D12 wrote a song about it, it’s mentioned in Grosse Point Blank (my personal favorite John Cusack role since the wonderful Journey of Natty Gann, as well as Dan Aykroyd’s last great role), and it was the basis of an episode of Criminal Minds (not work linking to.)

After a record number of fires in 1994 (the year The Crow came out), the city started Angel’s Night, as a response to the arson and tens of thousands Detroit residents walk the streets on that Devil’s Night to keep their neighborhoods safe.

Now where does this come from? Well, a couple of things. First, there’s a Spring tradition in Europe of Walpurgis Night on April 30th. The night before the feast of a Catholic Saint (naturally), it was originally rumored to the be the night that witches meet in the German mountains and was an evening for pranks, and later, politically motivated riots (it’s the day before the Community holiday, May Day.)

But some inspiration also comes from the night before Guy Fawkes’ Day (you know the masks that the guys were wearing in V For Vendetta?) That’s a holiday based around the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot where a Catholic group tried to assassinate the King of England (you see, they’re not all as merciful and loving as Maria Goretti…) That’s in the UK on the 5th of November and the night before became a traditional day for pranks, Mischief Night, and in some places, in the country as a coming of age ceremony for thirteen year olds (a Bar Mitzvah of Terror!)

They made a Mischief Night movie in 2014 with the not-very-discerning Malcolm Mcdowell. But the most obvious inspiration is for a film called The Purgea horror flick and social satire about a future America where crime is so bad that for one night a year, everything is legal for twelve hours. That means that people can do whatever they want for one night, cause as much destruction, kill people, whatever, and it serves as kind of a population control for the poor. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly were also attached to a Devil’s Night horror-comedy, but the status of that is currently unknown.

Fire it up! Fire it up! Fire it up!

But this particular episode has a point that we get to eventually, and that Devil’s Night is the perfect example of how people turn something innocent like a prank into something horrible, like arson. It’s the mentality of a riot. Sometimes when people talk about riots, they think of Los Angeles in 1992 or Ferguson in 2014 and they are quick to put the blame on poor people or minorities or a few  destructive elements. But riots right here in Madison, Wisconsin show us that it doesn’t matter who the population is, income and ethnicity isn’t a factor, when people are in large groups and get aggravated, they will destroy things. And people will do things that they never thought they would do. Malcolm Gladwell delineated this particularly brilliantly at this year’s The New Yorker festival.

Madison was always fun on Halloween, but in the early 2000s, it was the Halloween destination, even MTV came here to document the party. But you get tens of thousands of people from all over the country coming to the party, combine that with massive amounts of alcohol, and the inhibition-destroying effects of wearing a costume (there’s even a name for being defined by your outfit, called unclothed cognition) and Madison’s main drag turns into a scene that you normally only see on the news from a Russian republic or a Middle Eastern country.

The psychology of a riot has a lot to do with seeing what other people do. Yes, you might not normally throw a beer bottle at a police officer, but watching how many other people throwing that bottle and not getting in trouble does it take for you to think that it’s okay? It’s the mob. You might not normally break a window, but if you see ten other people do it, well, then it might not seem to be such a bad idea. Throw some booze and youthful exuberance in the mix and I think you know where I’m going.

Madison Wisconsin Halloween Riots
Picture courtesy of Derek Montgomery.

That’s Devil’s Night. A night where tradition, expectation, mob mentality, peer pressure, and opportunity combine to create destruction. And it’s that disintegration of society’s boundaries that we tackle in this episode’s song, “Neanderthal“.

Virtual murder,
pixelated death,
we can kill each other,
with no regrets.
Like raping a hooker,
Or popping a cop,
Or pushing a handi,
Right out of his wheelchair.

Your thoughts become reality,
Focusing on a tragedy,
And now I’m f$%^ing my PC.

I am Neanderthal.
I am Incredible.
I am Neanderthal.
Berserker.

This liquor store’s a mammoth,
This gat’s a bone.
There’s too much information,
In this age of Stone.

Your thoughts become reality,
A self-fulfilling prophecy,
And now I’m f$%^ing my PC.

I am Neanderthal.
I am Incredible.
I am Neanderthal.
Berserker.

Your thoughts become reality,
Focusing on a tragedy,
And now I’m f$%^ing my PC.

I am Neanderthal.
I am Incredible.
I am Neanderthal.
Berserker.
Berserker.
Berserker.

62 – Behind The Screams: An Interview with Ghost Mine’s Patrick Doyle

I’ve often been critical of a lot of the “paranormal reality” television out there because it amazes me how much evidence that they can collect in one place in a short amount of time. They go to a new place every week and somehow come up with amazing evidence. If you’ve ever been on a paranormal investigation, you understand that most of the time you come up empty-handed, so how do these guys come up with incredible evidence every single week?

Well, that’s why I thought the premise of Ghost Mine was pretty interesting. Instead of going to a new place every week, they were going to stay in one place for several weeks and see what happened. The idea behind the show was that an old mine with a reputation for being haunted was being reopened in Oregon by a mining team on the hunt for gold and a paranormal research team on the hunt for ghosts. It would be a pretty awesome setup for a horror film (it almost feels like it could be a sequel to one of my personal favorites, Quatermass and The Pit AKA Five Million Years to Earth).

The show ran for two seasons on the SyFy Channel (it’s still hard to type out that silly name)ad it was hosted by Patrick Doyle and Kristen Luman. On the heels of the premiere of their new show, Behind The Screams on the Reelz Network (a show that explores the real-world inspiration for horror films, something that of course we can get behind here!),  we had a great conversation with Patrick on his lifelong quest for the paranormal.

Patrick goes into detail on his first paranormal experience of seeing  a Shadow Person as a child and how that eventually turned into the hobby of investigating haunted places looking to see if he could find more (something that I admire his courage for, my own visit from a Shadow Person left me with an approach avoidance conflict about seeing one again!)

While Patrick undertook his paranormal investigations over the years privately (and most often terrifyingly (to me at least) alone, he said that he didn’t often go with a team), his transition to paranormal television personality wasn’t something that he expected.

In 2006, Patrick released a young adult book he authored and illustrated called Edgar Font’s Hunt for a House to Haunt (say it fast a couple of times, you know you want to…) To promote the book, he started looking for YouTube videos of paranormal activity that were obvious fakes and would deconstruct them in his own blog and video series called Haunted Hoax. And that’s where it started. After becoming a popular series (as well as then turning into a target for Internet haters, but since Patrick is a man that openly admires the enemy-of-spoon-benders everywhere, James ‘The Amazing’ Randi, he should know that “haters gonna hate”.

Haters gonna hate...
Enough said…

Anyway, Haunted Hoax became so successful that SyFy contacted him about hosting Ghost Mine, but when they hired him, they made him take down all of his YouTube videos, effectively “buying his brand”. And while that sounds nefarious, it isn’t really. I also do work with a website that features musician profiles and songs, and when a major label signs an artist, they demand all previous songs, pictures, and profiles are taken down, that way they ensure the representation of their new talent acquisition is controlled by them, it’s part of protecting their investment.

However, while the scrubbing of those videos did create a little controversy, Patrick unwaveringly defends the evidence that they found on Ghost Mine and indeed, says that he was disappointed that they left some of their best stuff on the cutting room floor.

But while paranormal investigators might have an insight into the other side of the veil, no one can predict what’s in the hearts of network executives and a regime change at SyFy spelled the closing of Ghost Mine. 

Patrick returned to being a book author and a paranormal investigation until being called up by the Reelz network to work with Kristen once again on Behind The Screams, and we finish up the interview with advice for amateur investigators.

Number one, he says, “Do it for yourself. Do it for your own experience.” And that you really only need three items when you go out:

  1. Flashlight (so you don’t fall over)
  2. Voice recorder (for EVPs)
  3. Camera (to record in case you see anything!)

Follow Patrick on Twitter and make sure to give him a like on Facebook, he’s a serious-minded investigator that I hope we hear a lot more from in the future.

This episode’s song has as a little bit of a Old West theme to go along with Ghost Mine. It’s a Sunspot track called “Ghost Town”.

This place was never meant for human habitation
and it’s just a ruin, well it’s just a ruin now.
And I can see the cracks in the foundation,
there’s a hole in the door from the fights waged here before.

Let’s not get caught with our pants down,
I won’t get busted with my fingers in the cookie jar again.
This old bed is a hand-me down,
But if you wanna crash here I’m game if you are.

This old place is a ghost town.
This is the room where we store,
all the things we like to forget.
Welcome to my hellhole,
a place for the lost souls,
of all the hearts left here for dead.

Don’t get any closer,
don’t make any sudden moves.
Don’t look at me like that,
I ain’t no scaredy cat.
This is a house of spirits,
this town of full of ghosts,
so upright so convincingly
they don’t have to be dead, but they’re dead to me.

See the wanted sign,
that’s my face.
I’m not welcome anymore,
as if I ever was.
They plastered my name,
all over this place.
We might have to leave running,
so keep your eye on the door.

This old place is a ghost town.
This is the room where we store,
all the things we like to forget.
Welcome to my hellhole,
a place for the lost souls,
of all the hearts left here for dead.

61 – Dark Shores: Chicago Ghost Conference 2015 Wrap-Up

So, October 2nd through 4th, I attended the Dark Shores: Chicago Ghost Conference with a VIP pass. My sister, Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts, as well as one of the guides on her haunted history tour, Estephanie (check out some of her cool handcrafted items here!), also came along and in this podcast we go over our favorite parts of the convention. This is Estephanie’s first ghost convention (Allison’s first was one of Troy Taylor’s events in Alton, IL where we did our first live podcast this last St. Patrick’s Day!)

First of all, if you haven’t been on the Chicago Hauntings ghost tour, you’re missing out, because it’s a lot of fun and a great way to get to know Chicago ghost stories and haunted places. It’s run by Ursula Bielski (and Allison and I always like to see another proud Polish-American in the ghost business!) and she did a great job of collecting an entertaining group of speakers on a variety of paranormal subjects.

The conference was at Gaelic Park, which was right across the street from one of the reputedly most haunted spots in the Chicago area, Bachelors Grove Cemetery. They had special haunted late night tours of the cemetery and even had a quick presentation by the person that took this photo, which in my opinion, is one of the best ghost photos of the past couple of decades…

The Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove (not that Madonna, she’s not a ghost yet, just a skeleton…)

The event was emceed by Minneapolis and Coast To Coast AM radio host, Dave Schrader of Darkness Radio, and he’s just as funny in person as he is on his radio show. Friday night, there was a short video presentation on a Bachelors Grove featuring a local ghost hunting team and then a really cool interview with Father Mike Maginot, who was the priest who exorcised the kids in the “Indiana Demon House”.

The Indiana Demon House was a controversial case of demonic possession from 2014 that happened in Gary, Indiana (home of not only Michael Jackson, but also Blacula himself, William Marshall!) Anyway, you’re going to hear a lot more about the Indiana Demon House in the upcoming months because Ghost Adventures’ Zak Bagans bought the place to make a documentary film on it (and take a look at this CSICOP article for their usual intelligent, but party-pooping take on the whole affair.) Anyway, the interview with the priest was interesting because he was taking about how just the use of the demon’s name was causing trouble for the family, that they couldn’t even get it the name to print out because it kept shutting down the computer. Anyway, that made me want to know the name of the demon (of course I think there’s more to the universe than we can comprehend, but I’m not scared of the oogedy-boogedy religious stuff when there’s real evil in the world happening all the time), but they moved on to the last speaker of the night before I could ask the question.

Darkness Dave and Father Migniot - Indiana Demon House
Darkness Dave and Father Maginot – Indiana Demon House

The last speaker was Christopher Fleming and he was great, mixing talk of ghosts and psychic powers with a little Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and some of The Secret as well (with less of the Oprah-y stuff.) Anyway, I’m a sucker for self-help stuff so I really enjoyed it and I think he had a really positive message that I like to hear. If you want something, you need to believe in it. And whether it’s a flash of intuition, some psychic power, or it’s you creating the “vision” yourself, “vision” is the important thing. If you don’t see where you want to go, then you might never get there. I liked the integration of psychic sensitivity with a grander purpose towards self-determination.

Saturday morning was a lot of fun with presentations by Scott Gruenwald (a funny but definitely NSFW presentation to start the day!) and our good friend, Tea Krulos from the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, (who had a fun lecture on ghosts in the Brew City!)  We also caught up with the guys from The Hidden Truth, Jay Bachochin from Wisconsin Paranormal Investigators and filmmaker, Scott Markus.

Catching up with Jay from Wisconsin Paranormal Investigators
Hunting the truth in Chicago wth Milwaukee Ghosts, Madison Ghost Walks, and Wisconsin Paranormal Investigators!

There was a panel on ghost boxes (here’s how to make your own!) and then around lunchtime, it was time for the Guest of Honor. Actress Virginia Madsen was the Guest of Honor and she talked on a panel about Chicago ghost stories since she’s had an interest in it and she’s also a Chicago native. She’s been in movies like Candyman and A Haunting in Connecticut, we talk about Candyman a bunch in the Charlie Charlie episode and she seemed like a lot of fun (and just as pretty in person as on the screen!) But at $25 for a picture with her, I decided to go for a long shot instead!

Is she saying "Candyman, Candyman, Candyman"?!?
Is she saying “Candyman, Candyman, Candyman”?!?

Then we watched Christopher Saint Booth, a British documentarian and snazzy dresser who makes films with his brother about paranormal subjects.  He released a documentary and book based on the diaries around the true story behind The Exorcist as well as and he did talk a little bit about Christian duality (you can’t have God without the Devil, hey it’s like the Yazidi!) Check out his demo reel here, the Booth Brothers do some pretty stylish work!

It’s like a British Paranormal Bret Michaels!

But Allison’s favorite presentation of the day came from the guy who finds the ghost stories for Ghost Adventures, Jeff Belanger. His presentation was totally polished, had plenty of multimedia, and really got into the reason that ghost stories and folklore are important and in the podcast episode, Allison gets into why she even got a little verklempt during it. My favorite part was talking to him about his music and he even tells a story about opening for Eddie Money (which I retell in the podcast.)

Allison and Zombie Jeff Belanger!
Allison and Zombie Jeff Belanger!

Then afterwards, Saturday night was the costume karaoke party at Chet’s Melody Lounge (across the street from Resurrection Cemetery!) and that was a blast. Jeff Belanger and Darkness Dave were dressed as a little bit of Chicago history and after a few Lagunitas beers, I even tried to get the name of the Indiana Demon out of Darkness Dave (to no avail!) Christopher Fleming sang  a wicked version of “Big Balls” by AC/DC, I did a little Judas Priest, and everybody did “The Time Warp”!

Darkness Dave Schrader and Ghost Adventures Jeff Belanger
Mrs. O’Leary and the cow who caused the Great Chicago Fire…

Sunday, however, took a little bit to get going because well, you know, beers, but there were some of my favorite presentations that day. Including some Jewish ghost stories and a fascinating lecture on ghost stories around the world (including the tribe from The Gods Must Be Crazy and Southeast Asian ghost stories that I’ve already integrated a little bit into Madison Ghost Walks!)

Oy vey!
Oy vey!

But the final presentation of the day is what inspired this week’s song. It was about The Devil In The White City himself, H.H. Holmes and various Chicago serial killers. Well, I can’t believe that I’d never heard the term “Murder Castle” before, but all the way home all I thought it was the perfect name for a song.

Anyway, it really was a great time if you love ghost stories or history and it was a lot of fun meeting some notables in the paranormal world (and we’ll be having plenty of them on the show in the future!) I don’t know if I’d get a VIP Pass again, because the only extra this year was a little catered party right before the kickoff (where the pizza was good, but it wasn’t enough time to really break the ice unlike at the Saturday masquerade party.) But the presentations were definitely worth the price of admission espcially that they come with a a discount code for iherb. If you’re interested in the next Chicago Ghost Conference, you can get tickets (at a discount until October 16th!) by clicking right here.

Did someone say Murder Castle?!
Did someone say Murder Castle?!

This week’s song is “Murder Castle” by Sunspot, inspired by the Chicago Ghost Conference!

Murder Castle!
H.H. Holmes!
Murder Castle!
H.H. Holmes!

I’m gonna build a hotel,
right by the World’s Fair,
I’m gonna lure you into,
my evil secret lair.
You’re in my little maze trying to run away.
But you can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t get away.
You’re in my little maze trying to run away.
But you can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t get away.

In my
Once you’re in my
Murder Castle!
H.H. Holmes!
Murder Castle!
H.H. Holmes!

It’s just a little drugstore,
And we’re hiring, come apply,
You’ll even get some life insurance,
and I’ll collect it when you die.
I’ll be right back, don’t move an inch, baby.
I see your eyes are are are are are a little sleepy.
I’ll be right back, don’t move an inch, baby.
I see your eyes are are are are are a little sleepy.

Murder Castle!
H.H. Holmes!
Murder Castle!
H.H. Holmes!

60 – Silver Screen Saucers: An Interview with Robbie Graham

UFO movies have been with us for just a little bit less time than movies themselves.  From Kenneth Arnold’s original sighting of a flying saucer in 1947 to the Roswell incident less than a month later, it only took a couple of years for Hollywood to catch up. In 1950 they’d released The Flying Saucer and UFOs landed for the first time on the big screen, beginning the long relationship between film and UFO phenomena. Author Robbie Graham has just released a new book, Silver Screen Saucers, that focuses on that relationship. I interviewed Robbie from his home in Surrey in the United Kingdom and we talk about how the book started as  a doctoral thesis, the power of cinema on belief, and how the CIA might have been using these films as disinformation.

When I think about flying saucers and alien visitation movies, one of my favorites is The Day The Earth Stood Still reference (the original, not the Keanu Reeves version…)

Keanu Reeves as Klaatu
I know Kung Fu…

To me, what The Day The Earth Stood Still really gets right is the sense that aliens have superior technology and that we’ve caught their attention in the universe .  Now that’s something that has really influenced our UFO folklore for a long time now, that they’re coming here for a reason and could take us out at any minute.  If they’ve got the power to travel among the stars, what must their weaponry look like, right?

Oh, and just because I love it, here’s a little Bruce Campbell with my personal favorite reference from The Day The Earth Stood Still.

What was particularly interesting to me, though, was something I hadn’t heard before. And that was that the movie was made with full cooperation of the US government, and that they might have been behind some of the content of the film. But why would that be? What would they have to gain? The legend in UFO circles is that they wanted to prepare the American public for UFO disclosure (which to me seems ridiculous, because it’s been over sixty years and no disclosure yet…) Robbie even has an excellent article on Scribd about it which you should check out because it’s the most well-researched article you’re going to see on UFOs today!

Okay, well maybe it wasnt about disclosure, but maybe it was about getting the American people to believe in aliens. But why would the government want that? Well, in the Cold War, it was completely advantageous for Americans to believe in the idea that we had contact with aliens and that we were working on new technology with them. Now that’s something that would be scary to the Russians, we might both have nukes, but what kinda of extraterrestrial technology are we hiding up our sleeves? It’s classic psychological warfare.

Robbie goes on to give some more examples of this and we start talking about the first mention of the famous “Area 51” in the mass media, which was a television special that I remember watching as a kid. 1988’s UFO Cover Up Live was one of those syndicated specials like Geraldo checking out Al Capone’s vaults. This was nearing the end of the Cold War, when things were tense again in the 1980s. All of a sudden, the Air Force’s secret base has alien weaponry,

So, it’s probably not a coincidence that Area 51’s most famous employee, Bob Lazar, came out just a few months later to reveal all he had seen while working at the Top Secret facility. Robbie believes that Lazar was shown these things on purpose by the Air Force because they wanted him to “blow the whistle”. After all, what’s a Soviet nuke compared to an alien death ray?

Okay, that’s just a short part of Silver Screen Saucers and that’s where I steered the conversation because I truly hadn’t thought about it like that before, but I could have talked to him for hours on end on any one of the topics that he broaches in his new fascinating book, which you can buy right here and check it out yourself! 

Well, the main thesis of Silver Screen Saucers is that we’ve made UFOs real to because visuals have such a real effect on our beliefs system even more than books, because our visual sense is so tied to our interpretation of reality. It’s like in a horror movie when your subconscious mind doesn’t know you’re seeing fiction, so that’s why you have a physical reaction. So the song this week is a little riff on that idea called “Seeing Is Believing”.

Featured Song: Seeing Is Believing By Sunspot

Disinformation,
we’re lied to every day,
Our imagination used
to fool our lizard brain.
The point of distraction,
just a little bait and switch,
Find the ball under the shell,
Who knows? You might get rich

A mothership o’er the Empire State,
A saucer on the White House lawn,
Keep your eyes upon the skies,
and forget you’re being conned.

If seeing is believing,
Then I’ll get down on my knees,
my head gets cracked,
‘tween fiction and fact
We see what we want to see.
Your eyes play tricks,
and your mind transfixed,
on what the screen reveals.
Seeing is believing,
but that doesn’t make it real.

Check your programming,
you could use a little doubt.
Keep on looking, keep on looking,
further than your eyes allow.

A mothership over the Empire State,
and a saucer on the White House lawn,
Keep your eyes upon the skies,
and forget you’re being conned.

If seeing is believing,
Then I’ll get down on my knees,
my head gets cracked,
‘tween fiction and fact
We see what we want to see.
Your eyes play tricks,
and your mind transfixed,
to what the screen reveals.
Seeing may be believing,
but that doesn’t make it real.

59 – Documenting the Paranormal: An Interview With The Gray Brothers

Adam and Drew Gray are Canadian filmmakers who have approached documenting the paranormal with a scientific eye and an open mind. Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts first introduced me to their work through a documentary called The Nightmare. 

Inspired by a sleep paralysis incident that affected Adam Grey so deeply that he couldn’t sleep for weeks where he saw a shrouded figure at the foot of the bed (he goes into detail about what actually happened to him during the podcast and I talk about a sleep paralysis incident that I had as well that would later inspire our song, “Hypnogogic”.)

They went around the world to film The Nightmare (which you can watch in its entirety on Amazon Prime), from Japan to California to Newfoundland to Africa in their research for the worldwide phenomena of the legends behind sleep paralysis and Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome, a condition that causes people to die in their sleep mysteriously.

First noticed in the Hmong refugees in the United States after the Vietnam War, it’s something that  Asians have been especially susceptible to this syndrome, with 230 Thai men, often young and otherwise healthy, succumbing to it in  between 1982 and 1990. Whether it’s the Newfoundland “Old Hag” or the Hmong  dab tsuam (pronounced “da cho”), these midnight visitors have been reported all over the world. Whether or not, it’s an evil spirit or just the imaginations of afflicted working against them, these nightmares can sometimes have deadly consequences.

The success of The Nightmare led the brothers to be commissioned for a Canadian paranormal series called Supernatural Investigator, where they explored other topics like the Betty and Barney Hill abduction case (that we talked about in our hypnotic regression episode) and remote viewing. Remote viewing is also known as clairvoyance (French for “clear vision”) where people can see things far away psychically (something the United States military even tried to exploit during the Cold War, most famously parodied in The Men Who Stare At GoatsThey went to a remote viewing training camp in Las Vegas and had some very interesting results.

After documenting the paranormal for years, they’ve made their way to true crime and their last documentary, Fly Colt Fly, is about Colton Harris-Moore, the “Barefoot Bandit“, whose colorful exploits in stealing  planes and boats as just a kid in the American Northwest in the late 2000s made him a folk hero to some people. Currently, you can see their latest film on HBO Canada.

The song for this week’s episode is inspired by the Gray Brothers’ episode of Supernatural Investigator on Remote Viewing. It’s called “Tragedy (Of A Remote Viewer With A Broken Heart)”.

 

Tragedy (Of A Remote Viewer With A Broken Heart) by Sunspot

I burned your pictures
I burned your clothes
I burned every little message and every little note.
Deleted emails,
deleted texts,
I let the cat rip up your side of the bed.

But every time I close my eyes
There you are with your new prize
Just loving some other guy to death.

I can still see you
laughing
your hand in hand
you’re making love to another man
every second my heart is going to burst.

I can still see you
our minds are connected,
even when I’m rejected
And now this gift is nothing but a curse.

Now you’re loving someone else to death.

I’m not your BFF,
or your buddy,
Please don’t call me for lunch cuz I don’t wanna see.
And I’m not angry,
it’s not your fault,
Sometimes things get turned on that, can’t get turned off.

Cuz every time I close my eyes
There you are with your new prize
Just loving some other guy to death.

I can still see you
laughing
your hand in hand
you’re making love to another man
every second my heart is going to burst.

I can still see you
our minds are connected,
even when I’m rejected
And now this gift is nothing but a curse.

Now you’re loving someone else to death.
Now you’re loving someone else to death.
Now you’re loving someone else to death.