All posts by Mike Huberty

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

Looking For Love In All The Weird Places…

Good news, everyone! The Android and iOS apps for ParanormalDate.Com are live! What’s that? If you’re heard of things like (for Jewish singles) or (for Gentile singles) then you kinda know what this is about already, except instead of looking for people who are the same religion as you, you’re more interested in their openness to new beliefs (or if they’re just into ghosts, aliens, conspiracy theories, etc…)

Nobody wants to be judged by their potential significant other for what they believe in and let’s say you’re a psychic medium, well, your first date with a Richard Dawkins-spouting atheist is probably going to be some kind of a bust. And let’s be real as well, if you can’t respect another person’s beliefs, you’re going to have a hard time staying in love with them.

Now, I’m a happily married man and not in the market for a love connection, but I decided to log in to the site to check it out and let you know what it’s all about. logo
It’s hard not to love that motto…

Let’s start out with the tagline, “You Are Not Alone”. Clever, I like it. Makes you think about aliens, makes me think about Doctor Who, and it makes people feel that they’re not out there by themselves believing in fantastic things in a very ordinary world.

The questions on the profile are pretty straightforward, things like “What do you like to do for fun?” “What’s your favorite book or movie?”, and “Who is your greatest inspiration?” It only gets a little on the strange side when it asks, “What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?” So that part is like most traditional dating sites, I assume, so that people can suss out your common interests and see if they want to talk to you further.

The other parts of your profile are similarly straightforward, asking about your eye color, if you’re a smoker, drinker, vegetarian, etc…

There is an online diary where you can write journal entries for others to see and give a little more insight into yourself and where you are in life. That’s a good way to see what’s going on in the community, you can sort by age, but you can’t sort the diaries by location so you might be reading someone’s thoughts in California or New York and not necessarily close by. But this is the Internet, where long distance love happens!

If you’re looking to meet people in a more Tinder-like experience, then that’s where the encounters section comes in, and then you can start looking through people nearby and mark the ones that you’d like to meet.

The only paranormal thing I’ve really seen so far is the Astrology section and that’s where it gives you your horoscope for the day, which is nice, but not necessarily paranormal enough. Here’s what I’d like to see from a paranormal dating app and let me know if you’d agree:
Hey, there’s Bigfoot waiting for his ride…

Being able to sort people by WHAT paranormal stuff they believe in 

I’m into ghosts, UFOs, meditation, and more, but when people start talking about crystals, giants, alternative histories, and the akashic records, I’m kinda rolling my eyes. Not saying that stuff isn’t true, just saying that it’s not something that I’m particularly into and wouldn’t necessarily want to date someone who is.
What’s your sign, baby? You know that my Scorpio could fit perfectly in your Virgo…

Automatic matches by astrological sign or Numerology

Now I’m not the world’s biggest believer in astrology or numerology (I’m a huge skeptic on both of those things) but I do think that it would be fun to see “who the universe picked” for you based on those belief systems. They know your birthdate and your full name when you sign up (and they could ask a lot of questions about where you were born, the number of letters in your parents’ names, etc…), how about a feature that integrates that knowledge and helps select the kind of people that your sign would attract? Chinese restaurants have had the exact same placemats since I was a little kid and they could tell us that…
And now I’ve made you hungry.

Local Meetups With Speed Dating

I know, I’d wanna go to these things just so that I could advertise the podcast, because anybody who’s on obviously might be interested in a listen but also so that people could meet each other in a safe situation where they might be more comfortable in a “mixer”-type situation. And can you imagine speed dating, just bring your own Zener Deck and if they can predict your cards, well, then you’ve just made a psychic match!

Hey, it worked for Bill Murray didn’t it? (And with Gwendoline from Charles In Charge to boot, yowza!)

Anyway, if you’re looking to meet likeminded individuals it seems like it would be fun, and we’re interested in supporting any kind of service that brings people together to talk about the unknown. We’re not the kind of people who would make a fake account just to troll others looking for love online, so we’re not going to get too deep into the site, but it looks legit (at least I didn’t see any Ashley Madison chatbots so far) and if you have any experiences with or have some hot love success stories, then we’d love to know about it!


Paranormal Stories You Might Have Missed While Watching Making A Murderer

Well, you were probably watching Making A Murderer over Christmas and New Year’s and I can’t blame you, it was riveting television of murder, law enforcement corruption, and class-based oppression that unfortunately happened in our home state of Wisconsin. But while you were signing that petition to free Steven Avery, the world of the strange didn’t just roll over and play (un)dead. Here’s some paranormal stories you might have missed over the Holiday Break:

Hillary Clinton UFOs
Look at that smile… does she know something?

The big story is that in her quest for the presidency, Hillary Clinton seems to be courting the UFO conspiracists now by claiming that “Aliens may have already visited Earth” and that she’s “going to get to the bottom of it”. Her campaign chairman, John Pedesta, former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton is a UFO fan and in the past has said his biggest regret is not getting the disclosure that we’re all hoping for. So we know at least there’s someone on her team who cares (but who knows how much of that could be just disinformation…)

President Bill Clinton has spoken publicly about Roswell on a number of occasions because the 50th anniversary of the “crash” was under his watch. He’s claimed that they did look at all the documents from the time and it was just a weather balloon, that there was no alien crash there.

Well, at least they’re talking about it, but my personal favorite presidential UFO tale is still the noble Jimmy Carter, who sticks by his story of seeing something, even if he isn’t convinced about extraterrestrials…

The next big story has been making the Facebook rounds, that of an “800-year old cell phone” with numbers in cuneiform discovered in Austria. You might have seen it on Twitter or in your feeds over the weekend.

800 year old alien cell phone
Mork calling Orson… come in Orson…

Ah, but the truth is much more boring. Looks like it was a creation of German artists in 2012 and the photos of it, dissociated from the original art project started making the Internet rounds. It’s a heartbreaker if you love Ancient Aliens and time travel stories like I do, but don’t buy it!

This next story is more in the science fiction realm and it’s exciting! Japanese scientists have developed a device that can predict what words you’re about to say before you say them. They’ve traced words to the specific brain waves and it “reads” the brain waves and predicts the words.  While some sites have been talking about the potential for drones to be operated “telepathically”, I think it’s a lot more exciting for paralyzed patients, wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to help them talk?

In Doctor Who, their time machine, the TARDIS can telepathically read the minds of what the travelers are hearing and translate the language for them so that they understand. Now THAT is a sweet use for a telepathic machine. The Doctor explains that to Sarah Jane Smith in a great story called “The Masque of Mandragora” (and whaddaya know, you can watch the whole thing on Daily Motion!)

sarah jane and the telepathic tardis machine
Helluva mask there, pal…

Last but not least, here’s a my favorite conspiracy theory of the week. The Oregon wildlife refuge that was occupied over the weekend by a “militia” looking to protest the federal government’s treatment of private land rights. The protest was led by a guy named Ammon Bundy, whose father Cliven Bundy has been doing this kind of thing for years in Nevada. Now, whether you’re sympathetic to the protestors or not, doesn’t matter, because the theory that they’re actually government agents and his statements are designed to lure other extremist groups out of hiding to be captured by a government-led sting operation is so wonderfully bonkers that it’s a joy to behold.

We’re looking for links to weird news and any interesting paranormal stories that you might find (or write!) Just send them over to and we’ll check them out, analyze, and link to them here on the See You On The Other Side blog!



73 – Monster Hunters: Tea Krulos’ Search For The Unknown

When we last caught up with author and blogger, Tea Krulos, he’d been directing the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, which was the first conference of its kind that Wendy and I had attended. We had a blast and it was our second most downloaded episode of 2015 (so you guys must have liked hearing about it too!) So, we’ve talked to him about his conference and about his experiences working with Real-Life Super Heroes (yes, that’s a thing, and it’s awesome. Listen to our episode on it!) But we haven’t talked yet about his book, Monster Hunters, which was named by cryptozoology Godfather Loren Coleman as the top cryptozoology book of 2015. In that book, he meets with ghost investigators, UFO researchers, Bigfoot trackers, cryptozoologists, and more in search of what brings these people together to try and discover the truth behind weird creatures and haunted legends. With that exciting news of Tea’s book being named top read by one of the best in the field, Wendy, Allison, and I dragged Tea back into the conversation to learn more.

UFOs, Bigfoot, and the paranormal are exciting to think about it in pop culture. Everyone loves Star Wars right now with The Force Awakens on its way to become the biggest movie of all time and Star Wars has basically all of the paranormal categories in one movie. You’ve got aliens, Bigfoot (Chewbacca), psychic powers (The Force), and ghosts (Obi-Wan is always showing up post-mortem!)

While most people love this stuff in their movies and their religion (praying is basically asking God to do magic for us, isn’t it?), they often scoff at others who want to take it a step further. Our lives are lived almost exclusively in the physical world. You might know people that have a ghost story or have seen a UFO, and you might think they believe them… but UFOs and ghosts don’t do much to help you shovel snow or fill out the paperwork at your job. So, why do people care so much?

When Tea Krulos talks about why he’s interested in subcultures outside of the mainstream he talks about his purple mohawk and spiked leather jacket in high school. Or he mentions his Goth and Metalhead friends. Music and the fashion associated with its different genres are the first things that we often bond over in modern society. It’s one of the first ways we differentiate ourselves. The more extreme the fashion, the more of an outlier you usually are.

sarah jessica parker mohawk
Even Sarah Jessica Parker “rocks” a mohawk now…

But mass media and the products that are constantly pitched to us isn’t about outliers, it’s about conformity and commonality. It’s meant to find the biggest audience to sell to. Think Coca-Cola, Pop-Country music, or even Disney’s Star Wars (TM). It’s great that these things exist, Pop songs are catchy, Star Wars is awesome, Coca-Cola is delicious. But they’re ubiquitous. You can find them in the most backwoods store of the most backwoods place in the United States.

Tea Krulos finds the people that you won’t hear about in the mainstream. Punk fashion went into mass culture over a decade ago (chances are there’s a Hot Topic in your town) and tattoos and piercings are hardly the taboo they used to be. And while the Ghost Hunters show certainly popularized the genre of investigating the paranormal on reality TV, there is still a little bit of a stigma surrounding local paranormal groups, Bigfoot hunters, and UFO enthusiasts, precisely the people that Tea set out to document in his book.

Because of that stigma, there’s a natural distrust of reporters and authors in the community and that means that most paranormal groups aren’t as inclusive as you’d expect them to be. I always thought that was unusual, wouldn’t you think that a subgroup would be interested in bringing more people in! Not when you could be the object of ridicule or derision. In the past, you might have to worry about a newspaper having an unflattering article or a book maybe making your group look foolish in a chapter, but now with social media, everyone is a publisher and everyone has an opinion and isn’t afraid to broadcast it (just look at your Facebook feed for reinforcement.)

Since Tea wasn’t interested in ridiculing these groups, but rather understanding them (and to some extent, celebrating them), he was welcomed into the circles of groups like the Paranormal investigators of Milwaukee and places like Loren Coleman’s Cryptozoology Museum or the International UFO Arizona (where a meeting with George Noory at a casino led to a successful appearance on Coast to Coast AM!)

Tea on the hunt for Bigfoot!

While researching the book, Tea had his own “weird experience” while he was out with Bigfoot Hunter, Jim Sherman, in the forests of Central Michigan. It’s late in the middle of the night and he’s in his tent, while his Sasquatch tracking partner was in his truck finishing up the watch for the night. As he’s about to drift off to sleep, Tea hears a terrifying scream outside his tent. He opens the front zipper carefully and looks around and dashes to his Jim’s truck, where he finds Jim texting him about the same scream. As they sit and try to analyze what they heard, they see a strange light in the sky, a white object with a green and red light orbiting it, something neither of them had seen before or could identify. While they seem like they’re not in the same realm, there’s been a strange Bigfoot-UFO connection for a long time where sightings of the beast are often followed by visions of something strange in the sky… that sounds like something we should do an episode on in the future.

So, it was a lot of fun to talk about Monster Hunters  and Tea’s new book, which is going to be about doomsday prophecies and people who are prepping for the end of the world (we have a related episode on apocalypses that never happened), he also gave us some exciting news about the 2016 Milwaukee Paranormal Convention.

The 2016 convention will take place October 14th through 16th at the Zelazo Center on the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee campus and will feature cryptozoology founding father Loren Coleman, fellow See You On The Other Side podcast guest Chad Lewisour co-contributor Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts, Wendy and I will be broadcasting from the convention as well as I’ll be hosting a panel called Paranormal Road Trip!

It was fun to have Tea on as we celebrate going into 2016 because we love to surround ourselves with cool people doing interesting paranormal projects just like us. We hope everyone out there has their best year yet and let’s use the time we have to the best all of our abilities!

As Delmore Schwarz wrote in “Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day”

What will become of you and me 
(This is the school in which we learn …)   
Besides the photo and the memory? 
(… that time is the fire in which we burn.)

Memory in soft focus,
dreams of the past,
a little crutch we can hold on to.
Some things weren’t made to last.

Don’t look back,
it will only make you slower,
Don’t question,
the things you cannot change.
This moment,
the only thing you can hold onto,
don’t spend it in a cage.

You are free,
choose to be.
The Fire in Which We Burn.
You are free,
choose to be.
The Fire in Which We Burn.

A hazy wave of rumination,
days gone by,
An unreliable narration,
A well that ran dry.

Don’t look back,
it will only make you slower,
Don’t question,
the things you cannot change.
This moment,
the only thing you can hold onto,
don’t spend it in a cage.

You are free,
choose to be.
The Fire in Which We Burn.
You are free,
choose to be.
The Fire in Which We Burn.

It’s later than you think,
it’s later than you planned,
It’s over in a blink,
it’s over in a flash.

And the hourglass runs out of sand.

You are free,
choose to be.
The Fire in Which We Burn.
You are free,
choose to be.
The Fire in Which We Burn.

72 – The Year In Weird News: 2015’s Most Popular Episodes

The last week of the year is finally here! And depending on how your 2015 was, well, that’s going to make the difference whether you’re excited or depressed this week. I’m a little bit of both, we did so many great podcasts on weird news in 2015 and I met a ton of new people in the paranormal field. That was pretty awesome. And consistently Sunspot wrote more songs than any other year, so that was pretty awesome.

But as a band, we took time off from playing a lot of live shows and so we didn’t get to hang out with as many people around the country as we usually like to. I was in awesome shape the first two months of the year and not so much at the end, ha. I had my best and worst marathons this year.  I re-dedicated my life to my band, music, and our search for the unknown this year, and that was life affirming! But was always, figuring out the economics of being a full-time creative type is a constant challenge.

Highs and lows. Every year is a little mix of good and a little mix of bad and we’re all hoping that the next year brings more good than bad. Take stock and appreciate the great things that happened while figuring out ways to keep improving. Today, we’re focusing on the highs as we go into 2016. Wendy, Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts, and I discuss the most downloaded episodes of 2015 and what we loved about the weird news that they contained.



This was one of Allison’s ideas because she really loves the movie  The Nightmare from these guys. It’s a tale of the legendary Old Hag and how visits from strange creatures when we wake up from sleep is something that happens cross cultures and in certain Southeast Asian cultures, has shown that it might be deadly. I shared my own story of being visited by little beings that I thought were aliens (but was really my twelve-year old imagination… or was it?!)



This is an important one for paranormal research I believe, because when you’re interviewing someone who’s had a strange experience, it’s not just about whether you believed something happened, it’s about whether you believe that someone else believes it. The mind will create its own narrative to match a certain view of events, whether those things actually happened or not. Eyewitness reports were considered “smoking guns” for a long time and now we now that memory can be very very deceptive…



Allison got to go to Hawaii and of course it wouldn’t be a vacation for her unless she got to visit some haunted sites. Her adventures with Lopaka from Mysteries of Hawaii were a lot of fun as she provided eyewitness reports right from several mystical and haunted locations. And you know that means we’re going to have to follow up and investigate some more of those haunted and spooky places!



This was one of my favorite episodes all year, not only because Robbie Graham really knows his stuff when it comes to UFO movies (and I’m a crazy movie buff that always enjoys a conversation with aficionado like myself) but it really had me thinking about disinformation. Is there nothing that our government wouldn’t do to gain some kind of strategic advantage during the Cold War?

Did the US Air Force give Bob Lazar the information about aliens at Area 51 on purpose because they knew he would leak it? It was to their advantage that th American people believed that we had access to alien technology because it meant that the Soviets might believe we had access to otherworldly weapons. One of the reasons cited for the fall of the Soviet Union was their desperate spending to keep up with the United States War Machine (they had a great military but people waiting in line for bread), could our extraterrestrial disinformation have something to do with it?

And if it did, what’s the disinformation now and who’s in on it? Who’s controlling the narrative, from Donald Trump to ISIS…


We knew that this was going to be a popular one because we get into the nitty gritty of ways that you can meditate your way into having an Out-of-Body Experience. Dr. Minero’s job is to train people how to do it. Allison has had an OBE when she was a teenager and she’s been trying to recreate it ever since. There is some research behind determining whether OBEs are people really leaving their bodies or just a feeling of dissociation from the physical self (I’ve definitely felt that dissociation in meditation but I have yet to actually leave the body.)

In the research, they’ll place something somewhere in the room that you can only see if you’re actually up at the level of the ceiling, the subjects can’t see it form a sitting or laying position. What are the results of that research? We’ll be doing a follow up episode to go more in depth on the science of Out-of-Body Experiences.



Hooray for Hollywood! A little bit of Terrifying Tinseltown and the supernatural stories of its most famous thoroughfare. In a town where stars are launched and thrown away, dreams and wishes get granted and crushed, it’s the stories of the colorful personalities that never wanted the movie to end. Most interesting thing I thought was that Americans were fascinated with the Orient in the first couple of decades of the Twentieth Century, so that’s why there are theatres called “The Egyptian” or the famous Chinese Theater (indeed, Milwaukee has its own Oriental Theatre as well – that’s where Allison and I saw Rocky Horror for the first time.) Asia and the Middle East were considered exotic and that was used in the marketing. What marketing today are we going to look back on in eighty years and wince a little bit? (I sure hope it’s aliens!)



From a little town in southeastern Wisconsin, Linda Godfrey established herself as quite an expert in the paranormal pantheon of authors and experts. The Beast of Bray Road and the strange red-eyed bipedal canine “werewolf” terrorizing the good people of Elkhorn, Wisconsin has led Linda writing books on cryptids and monsters all over America and the world. A true expert and a delightful person, this is the perfect place to start if you want to learn about what makes a great cryptozoologist!



Drunken young men are falling in the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Why? The official story is that they just got too wasted and fell in.  A “death by misadventure”. Two New York City police detectives believe there’s gang of serial killers roaming the Interstate 90 and 94 corridor and they’re targeting young men across the country.

The Deputy Medical Examiner started looking for a paranormal explanation. The investigation encompassed nineteenth century shipwrecks and ancient Native American legends of dangerous water spirits that call to their victims. The Lakota and Chippewa tribes both have stories of sirens that call to men from the water to lure them to their death. European settlers brought over their legends of “the water man” who is just waiting to pull you under. Something is killing young men in La Crosse, and whether it’s a killer gang, the demon alcohol, or something more sinister and paranormal (like Stephen King’s IT), the mystery is still unexplained.



Hey, it was our first paranormal conference and we loved it! Whether it was interviewing the attendees to hear about their personal ghost stories, running into the speakers who were guests on our podcast (and there were many!), or just soaking in all the weird weird love, it was some of the most fun we had all year. Plus, Allison said that her favorite song of the dozens that we’ve recorded for the podcast this year was from the conference. The track was “The Bigfoot Polka” and we think it pretty much encompasses everything unusual that we love about the Brew City!

At that conference we also discovered that Bigfoot is real and we’ve got the proof right here…



Secrets of the Vatican: Pope Francis and UFO Disclosure


We heard an Internet rumor in June that the Pope was finally going to reveal the existence of aliens and that we’ve already had first contact. Okay, well, Pope Francis does seem to be the most liberal since Vatican II after the hardline of Benedict. Gays, okay. Divorce, we can deal with it. Aliens… Come again? Needless to say, disclosure never happened.

Look, the Vatican owns to observatories and pays special attention to what’s happening in the night sky. Whether it’s because they’re all aliens (like the South Park episode where all the sexually abusive priests are from another planet with a gigantic spider leader) or its just because they’re looking for the next Star of Bethlehem (or the sign of the apocalypse like they find in Ahnuld’s millennial (End of Days) the Catholic Church is really into space and has their own scientists studying it. Why? Well, they say they’re studying the heavens but maybe they’re keeping they’re eye out for something that we don’t know about. John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness posits both Jesus and the Devil as extraterrestrials, does he and the Pope know something that we don’t?!

Here’s the article about the UFO Disclosure lobbyist that I reference in the podcast as well.

So all in all, it was a most excellent 2015 and we’re excited to bring you a lot more awesome content in the New Year, especially as we follow up on these topics and get you some new interviews and advanced discussions thwt really further the fun and your knowledge. We hope that your good things all outweigh your challenges over the holidays and don’t party too hard, that’s our job.

Goodbye 2015, see you on the other side!

Featured Song: Auld Lang Syne (arranged/performed by Sunspot)

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine†;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

71 – Christmas Monsters: Ten Terrors of the Yuletide

Christmas is all about peace on Earth, goodwill towards men, hey, it’s the time to say “I love you”, right? We make jokes about Santa’s list including the kids who are “naughty and nice”, but no one really means it. Even the naughty kids seem to get presents for the holidays. All the bullies I grew up with got presents from Santa Claus (even if some of them probably had Judd Nelson-from-Breakfast Club-style Christmases.) And I’m the only person I know that actually got coal in my stocking from St. Nick if I wasn’t behaving. It seems like we don’t have to worry about Christmas monsters.

But why bother with the naughty? After all, you don’t buy things for naughty kids and the Christmas shopping season is what keep’s America’s retail chains in business. And don’t let me sound like I’m being critical, the commercialization of Christmas can be fun, giving gifts is fun. Celebrating when it would otherwise be disgustingly cold and dark outside is fun! That’s why the Germanic countries had a mid-Winter festival (called the Yule, where we get the whole “Yuletide Season” from) around the Winter Solstice to begin with, because they probably just didn’t want to walk off the nearest Alp because they had to hibernate for five months out of the year.

I know the horned helmets aren’t historically accurate, but they’re so much more fun!

So when these peoples were being Christianized, they found a Christian reason to celebrate in December – hey guys, let’s do Jesus’ birthday, and it worked. Now today, most people are considered “lucky” if they get Christmas Eve off in addition to Christmas Day, but back then they partied for twelve full days, or as one King’s directive when he was trying to integrate Christmas with his country’s Pagan traditions was to keep it going “until all the ale ran out”!

So, you’ve Christianized a nation and integrated your religious holiday with their traditional festival. But  what do you do with the characters that existed in their mythology?  Turn them into Christmas Monsters, of course, and use them to threaten children who are badly behaved. Genius!

After years in the shadows, we all know and love Krampus now (I mean he even has his own movie!) And the modern genius move was updating the tradition of Christmas monsters to something cute and seemingly harmless, the Elf on a Shelf, who won’t harm the children, but sits on the mantle all Holiday season with a mischievous smile and a watchful eye. Well, back in the old days, they used to have little  Holiday friends like the Elf on the Shelf too, but they weren’t quite so cute…

Look at me, I’m a billion dollar child control industry!

1. Père Fouettard

christmas monsters - Père Fouettard
Look closely, those are screaming children in the sack on his back. Happy Holidays!

This guy’s name in English translates to “Father Whipper” and he likes to terrify children in the North and East of France. The legend is that he was a butcher who killed three little rich boys in order to rob them (or in a more gruesome version, he drugs them, slits their throats, chops up their bodies, and stews them in a barrel, ho ho ho) but St. Nicholas shows up, resurrects the boys and forces Father Whipper to be his assistant, punishing naughty children during Christmas by whipping them. One company even named a fragrance after him that has “whip leather” as part of the scent, ummm…, sexy?

2. Frau Perchta

Christmas Monsters - Frau Perchta
Does this dress make me look fat?
This little lady enjoyed scaring the crap out of kids in Bavaria and Austria. Frau Perchta probably derives from a pagan goddess who made the snow, but the legend was that she would enter people’s homes during the Yuletide and would leave a small coin for the children if they were good, but if they were naughty she would slit open their bellies and fill them with garbageYeah, I’ll take coal instead. They also said that she had one big foot in the form of a goose’s foot, so she was supposed to be a shapeshifter as well…

3. Belsnickel

Belsnickel comes from the Rhineland in Germany and brings candy as well as beatings. He even came along to America with the Pennsylvania Dutch (who were German settlers, not from The Netherlands, the Dutch part comes from the German word for their own language, Deutsch) and Dwight plays him in an episode of The Office. 
He’s always raggedy and dirty and sometimes dresses up in women’s clothes (he is also known as The Christmas Woman, not really sure why they threw that in there) and shows up separately from St. Nicholas. The custom is that he comes in, throws candy down on the floor, and then hits the children on their backs with a switch as they run around grabbing it. Growing up in 19th Century Pennsylvania sounds like a real hoot!

4. Hans Trapp

Christmas Monsters - Hans Trapp
License and registration…
Hans Trapp is coming” was the phrase used to scare misbehaving children into cleaning up their act all over the Alsace-Lorraine region. He was said to be a greedy man who worshipped the Devil, was excommunicated by the Pope, and then went insane and developed a hunger for human flesh. He lays a trap for a kid and is about to devour him when God strikes him down with a thunderbolt.   He then accompanies St. Nick like Père Fouettard to deliver beatings to bad little Euro-boys and Euro-girls.
However, what makes this story extra fun is that it’s based on a real person. Hans Von Trotha was a German knight who had a feuded with a local abbot and ended up being excommunicated over politics. Because he was a tall man in real life (over 6’6) and the fact that he was exiled from the Church it was easy to spread rumors that he was a monster and eventually used as a bogeyman to frighten children (even though even after his excommunication, he didn’t go mad, he served as a diplomat in the French court.)

5. Mari Lwyd

Christmas Monsters - Mari Lwyd
Sugar cubes, bah! I’d rather eat brains!
The Mari Lwyd isn’t as much of a Christmas monster, as a Welsh tradition of young men running around singing and looking for free drinks. Wassail is a hot mulled alcoholic cider that is drunk in Winter and “wassailing” is like caroling, but you get free drinks at the end of it. So, it’s way better than caroling actually. What makes this wassailing ritual creepy is the fact that they dress up a horse’s skull (often with a little crown and Christmas ornaments for eyes) and someone runs around with it leading rowdy young men to sing in front of houses. This Christmas monster might not beat you, but he won’t stop singing at you until you give him a drink!

6. The Tomte

Christmas Monsters - The Tomten
Oh no, I’m not from Travelocity…
This little guy is actually kind of cute, like a garden gnome come to life. The Tomte is a Scandinavian creature who represents the spirit of the farm, the soul of the first farmer of the land. Back in the day, people would be buried in mounds on their farms and that’s where the Tomte was said to live. The Tomte cares for the livestock and helps with the fortune of the farm (as well as sometimes ruining the fortune of neighboring farms), but he is old fashioned, easily offended, and immensely strong (kind of like nature and the weather, the real enemy in a farmer’s life.)
If the farm is treated well, the Tomte might come to the front door and bring little presents for everyone on Christmas and is traditionally brought a porridge on Christmas night (he likes it with a little pat of butter on top). But if you forget the butter, the Tomato freaks out and  might kill one of your cows. Also, there was a legend that a maid once was bringing out porridge to the Tomte when she decided to eat it herself and our cute little buddy decided to beat her within inches of her life. Also, their bites were considered poisonous, so watch out for that.

7. Black Peter

Christmas Monsters - Black Peter
This guy is celebrated in The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, places where they might not have the ugly history of Blackface Minstelry that the United States does, but they certainly do have a complicated history of race relations (cough cough the slave trade and colonialism cough cough). Black Peter or Zwarte Piete is another one of Santa’s little helpers who doles out the beatings to little children. And traditionally in Christmas parades, Black Peter is a white person who colors their face black.
The history of the character is interesting. In their traditions, Saint Nicholas lives in Spain in the off-season (much closer to Turkey which was his original hangout when he actually was alive. ) Black Peter is supposed to be a Moor from Spain (think Othello)  who Sinterklaas brings along when he comes in every year and while in the beginning Black Peter  was the punisher who carried bad kids in a  bag back to Spain, now he’s the guy who throws out candy to the kids in the Christmas parade.
Santa all over Europe has a long tradition of helpers who like to punish children, but it looks like that Black Peter was introduced in 1850 in a children’s book. And if you look at the rest of Santa’s helpers, it’s guys like Father Whipper or Hans Trapp, people that are associated with eating children, so is that what the book is comparing the Moors of Spain too (there was a Muslim Conquest of Spain, so this is part of the clash of cultures)? But you can see where this representation might be problematic. You’re equating the Moors with the devil, which is a decidedly Medieval way of thinking, at least Krampus doesn’t have any living relatives…

8. The Icelandic Yule Cat

Christmas Monsters - Jólaköttur Icelandic Yule Cat
Iceland – the country that puts legendary child murderers on stamps!

How many Christmas monsters has Björk sang about? Only Jólakötturinn, baby, the Icelandic Yule Cat! He’s a giant ferocious cat that roams the Icelandic countryside looking for children who haven’t received any new clothes for Christmas, and when he finds them, he devours them. That seems like a cruel double whammy doesn’t it? Not only do you not get new clothes for Christmas, but you also get eaten alive!

But it’s not really, Iceland is cold at Christmas and it’s dark most of that season. Children who finished their wool weaving work would get new clothes for the holiday. Getting new clothes is important because it means that you won’t freeze to death in the Winter! And you’ll need those clothes to stay inside and hide from Jólakötturinn’s mistress…

9. Gryla

Christmas Monsters - Gryla
Oh, I’m sorry, how rude of me… I should have saved some naughty child for you!
Yeah, now we’re talking. Gryla is a straight up Scandinavian nightmare – a giantess who lives in a cave in Iceland’s volcanic lava fields and only comes out to find ingredients for her favorite food, which is a stew of naughty children. She’s like Frau Pechta but hungrier and with a bigger family. She’s been married three times, so obviously a loser in love, but she must be good in bed, because she’s got plenty of children…

10. The Yule Lads

Christmas Monsters - Iceland Yule Lads
We’re like the seven dwarfs except pervy and our mother eats children. Merry Christmas!
Gryla’s sons, The Thirteen Yule Lads, are more mischievous and less cruel than their mother (they just scare kids, they don’t eat them), but you still don’t want them in your house, even if they’re dressed like Santa Claus. One of them comes every night of the Twelve Days of Christmas and they’ve got names like Spoon-Licker, Sausage-Swiper, and Window-Peeper(!), so I think you can guess the kinds of activities that they like to engage in. They mostly just steal and play pranks and in modern times, our dollied up like our St. Nick, and leave little treats for well-behaved boys and girls.
But that’s just the modern version because Iceland has a long tradition of hidden people – creatures who live close to use but in a different plane of existence. Magnús Skarphéðinsson, who is the headmaster of Iceland’s Elf School, says “I have met more than 800 Icelanders that have seen elves, and 4 or 5 that have seen Yule Lads. They were old fashioned dressed, poor, a little dirty, a little rude and hungry, trying to get food.” So, take that with however many grains of salt as you like, but we’re going to have to go in deeper on Iceland in an episode because any country with an Elf School requires further investigation.
So, the next time you’re thinking about putting up an Elf on the Shelf, maybe you should think about a little Christmas Yule Cat, horse skull, or a framed picture of Père Fouettard with a bag full of screaming children – it’s cheaper and if you think the prospect of no presents scares kids straight, watch what happens when you tell them their intestines are going to be replaced with garbage!

Featured Song:  Sunspot‘s version of “Santa Baby

Santa Baby, slip a sable under the tree, For me.
been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
so hurry down the chimney tonight.Santa baby, a ’54 convertible too,
Light blue.
I’ll wait up for you dear,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.Think of all the fun I’ve missed,
Think of all the fellas that I haven’t kissed,
Next year I could be just as good,
If you’ll check off my Christmas list,
Come and trim my Christmas tree,
With some decorations bought at Tiffany’s,
I really do believe in you,
Let’s see if you believe in me,

Santa baby, I wanna yacht,
And really that’s not a lot,
Been an angel all year,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa honey, there’s one thing I really do need,
The deed
To a platinum mine,
Santa honey, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Think of all the fun I’ve missed,
Think of all the fellas that I haven’t kissed,
Next year I could be just as good,
If you’ll check off my Christmas list,
Come and trim my Christmas tree,
With some decorations bought at Tiffany’s,
I really do believe in you,
Let’s see if you believe in me,

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing,
A ring.
I don’t mean on the phone,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight,
Hurry down the chimney tonight.

70 – Spiritual Awakening: The New Age Music of David Young

Twenty years ago, I could never have imagined myself writing this post. New Age music to me when I was a teenager was the saddest, silliest, and least passionate music that I could imagine. It was a crime to art akin to Muzak, which ripped the heart out of what I thought were passionate songs and just left them with a lifeless shell of toothless melodies and tame Mom-friendly synths.

I know I shouldn’t be so cynical, but COME. ON. man…

I was a Rock purist and a musical bigot. I still felt that music had the power to shock the old out of complacency and that’s was its mission. It was the artistic agent of social awareness, change, and rebellion. And some of it was, but by the mid–1990s, that agent of change wasn’t rock music anymore (I guess you could make an argument for the Lillith Fair at that point in history, but the charts and headlines were overwhelmingly dominated by Hip Hop by the middle of the decade.) Someday we’ll talk about the social impact of Grunge and what the death of Hair Metal really meant (but maybe not here, unless we can tie it into a conspiracy theory or something… Well, hello Kurt and Courtney!)

Anyway, this is just a long winded way of saying that I thought New Age music was a joke, something played by men in silly frilly shirts and women with flower tiaras. I mean, I love Ren Fairs as much as the next guy, but Yanni with his pornstar mustache and songs that didn’t even really sound like songs just made me want to barf.

I was very much a stereotypical Angry Young Man and I had an opinion on everything. And most of those opinions were ridiculous and based in what I thought I should be feeling. Indeed, if I really was a Rock purist, then how deep inside could I love Disco and robot music so much too? I felt like one of those televangelists that carries on a secret love life of prostitutes and interstate motels.

The truth is, I started discovering that music could be a lot more fun when you open yourself up to different genres, let go of your ideas of what’s “real art and authentic” and what’s not, and when you realize that other human beings might have different motivations and appreciate things in a different way then you do. In other words, I lightened the Hell up and discovered there was a ton of stuff out there to appreciate. And New Age music with all of its pan flutes, synth strings, world instruments, and thirty something Yuppie Yoga studio atmosphere are certainly part of that.

It’s not just Dreamcatchers and Chakras, look at this guy’s abs. I’m gonna go do some Yoga now…

Music isn’t only art, it’s also a tool. Yeah, it can be that agent of social awareness (from John Lennon to NWA), it can be symbolic of revolution (like Ozzy and Bon Jovi at the Moscow Music Peace Festival) at the societal level. But at a personal level, it can get you pumped for a big race (looking at you Andrew W.K.) or chill you out and help focus your mind when you’re meditating.

And when Wendy and I were talking about the interview in the intro, I realized that I needed to eat my Angry Young Man words to accompany this discussion with David Young. That’s right, I’m defending New Age Music and I’ll take anybody on, because it you don’t like it…

the dude abides

David is a charming and talented New Yorker who has sold well over a million albums in his career. He moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s seeking Rock stardom and he eventually found his way to the Venice Beach boardwalk busking to make extra money playing the recorder accompanying a harpist.

And that’s when things started clicking because the music they started making together became Celestial Winds, a duo whose homemade tapes alone would sell tens of thousands of copies.

That might be my favorite takeaway from the interview, he shifted to what he saw that people wanted, what they were asking him for more of, and that’s where he found what he was looking for. He stopped forcing and started opening himself up to what the world was telling him, he stopped beating his head against the wall, and ended up with a wildly successful and long music career.

After going off on his own and releasing dozens of his own solo albums, Young’s music is heard in thousands of healing centers around the world and his concerts have become less about just listening to music and more about using the music as a jumping point creating a spiritual experience for the attendees. He calls them “Soul Activation Workshops” and they’re all about healing and meditation (and we’ll have an episode about all the wonderful benefits of meditation soon!) He encourages the concert goers to close their eyes, but not after a little showmanship, (and this is pretty impressive I have to say) he plays two recorders at once…

…which made me think of Michael Angelo from Nitro and his double necked guitar solos, who we played with once at a Wisconsin Area Music Industry event…

Sure, meditation is a powerful tool, where we can quiet the mind, get out of our frantic headspace for a little while, and find some comfort and relaxation. But it’s what happens next that make Young’s concerts so memorable. He claims that more people have had out-of-body experiences while listening to his music than any other musician alive. Or they’ve had a visit from a favorite dead relative or even an encounter with who he calls “the Heavenly crew” or “Ascended Masters”, historical spiritual icons like Jesus, Buddha, or the Blessed Virgin. Often, multiple people will share that they saw the same Ascended Master at an event and that they were shown a sign in the form of a flower or animal that they all saw independently.

He ties this in to a Great Ascension he calls it of people becoming more spiritual throughout the world and how that’s leading to greater understanding and love between people. It immediately made me think of the religious Great Awakenings that occurred throughout history and those fundamentalist moments seemed to cause more harm than good (see our episode on the Pilgrims and Satanic Thanksgiving.)

And he gets to hang out with Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, which is awesome!

But David’s attitude is one of optimism instead of pessimism, and I can dig that. While we often link a rise in fundamentalism to the bogeymen of ISIS or the social intolerance of Evangelical Christians, we forget that there is a scientific basis for the human proclivity for spiritual experiences, we seek them and want them desperately. Spiritual awareness without religion provides the comfort and that “we’re all in it together” feeling without the rules that make us judge each other. The more of that the better, I think, and it doesn’t matter if it’s attributable to wishful thinking and imagination or whether there really is a “Heavenly Crew” watching out for us and the people we love.

So, check out a little bit of David’s music right here and if you’re looking to explore your own spiritual experience, we have a five-minute meditation track that we wrote at the end of this podcast. So, that’s right, I made fun of Yanni’s dark long flowing locks or Zamfir and his ridiculous pan flute… And now we made our own New Age track, man. So close your eyes, clear your mind, and take it in.

69 – The Lady Vanishes: The Disappearance of Agatha Christie

December 3rd marked the 89th anniversary of the Agatha Christie disappearance, where the most popular author on the planet and the person we can credit most with the development of what people think of as the modern mystery novel, went missing for eleven days. The author of And Then There Were None, The Mousetrap, and Murder on the Orient Express has thrilled readers with her fiction for nearly a century. But in 1926, Christie became the mystery, when she suddenly vanished with no explanation.

I’ve only read a few of her works, but I’ve seen a great deal of her adaptations. I used to love Mystery! when I was little because on Saturday nights it was usually on right before Doctor Who on the Milwaukee PBS station. Her disappearance was something that I remember reading about offhand and putting on the list of things that I should read about one day. Well, with the anniversary coming up, I figured it was an omen that that day was now.

agatha christie disappearance
Who let the dogs out?

So, let’s go back and talk about who Agatha Christie was in 1926. Born in a well-to-do family to an American father and English mother (who Christie believed had psychic powers!), Christie dreamed of being an opera singer before deciding on writing as a career. She married Royal Flying Corps officer and all-around World War I stallion, Archibald Christie on Christmas Eve in 1914 and they had a child (I accidentally say that she had two kids with him in the discussion, sorry about that!) Archie was instrumental in encouraging her to continue writing after she didn’t get any money from her first novel. Early in the 1920s, her writing career had taken off, but Archie was spending more and more time at the golf course than with his family.

Her mother had died early in 1926 and she moved back to her childhood home for a few months. The death and the lack of support from her husband left her psychologically fragile, like forgetting her own name when she was signing a check or bursting into tears when the car wouldn’t start. Fast forward to the last month of the year and Archie then decided to tell her that he was in love with someone else (a woman Nancy Neele that he worked and golfed with). So, yeah, 1926 was a bad year for the Dame.

On the morning of December 4th, 1926 her car was found abandoned in a chalk pit by a lake called Silent Pool (a place that inspired the death of one of her fictional characters) and she was nowhere to be found. Her identification and some clothes were inside the car, but otherwise there was no clues to point where she’d gone.

The search for Christie quickly became front page news. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, spiritualist and Sherlock Holmes author, even took one of her gloves to a psychic medium to see if they could get some assistance from the spirit world in the search. And it certainly didn’t help matters that Archie spent the weekend with friends, seemingly more annoyed than concerned. And according to the press, that made him a suspect in her disappearance.

agatha christie disappearance
The one on the right looks like a bad Velma from Scooby-Doo costume…

That part is a lot like Gone Girl, the Gillian Flynn novel that was insanely popular from a couple of years ago (and for good reason, it’s terrific), but we spoil the book and movie in this episode, so you’ve been warned. But just to sum up, the husband character in that novel becomes the media’s main suspect in the disappearance of his wife, which is a lot like what happened to Archibald Christie in real life. I’m not sure how much Flynn used the Agatha Christie disappearance as inspiration, but it certainly must have crossed her mind while writing.

So, the search goes on for eleven days until a saxophonist in a band playing at a spa called the Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate, recognizes the author from the pictures in the newspaper and contacts the police to collect the hundred pound reward to help find her. Then a journalist gets there first and confronts her as Mrs. Christie, to which she responds but says she doesn’t remember what happened and how she got there.

And the whole time at the spa, she’d been partying, dancing the Charleston, telling everyone that she was a recently bereaved mother (something I’m sure there was a lot of in the UK after the First World War) and checking in under the name, Theresa Neele – using the surname of her husband’s mistress. So something is happening there.

In the meantime, the police and the media were giving her Hell about faking her disappearance, particularly because she had written to Harrods in London inquiring about a diamond ring she had lost the week before she disappeared while she was shopping. And she also put an ad in The Times of London letting people know that they could communicate to a Theresa Neele through a London post office box.

This is similar to what happened to a young woman named Audrey Seiler right here in Madison, Wisconsin (where we produce the show.) She disappeared from her apartment in March of 2004 and was found four days later. She told police that she had been abducted, but later there was a videotape from a store where she could be seen buying duct tape and other “fake your own kidnapping” supplies. And it was said that she did it all to just get the sympathy of her boyfriend back after the bloom had been coming off the rose of her relationship. It cost the city of Madison around $96,000 and she was given three years of probation and ordered to pay the city back $250 a month in restitution. She left Madison soon after and returned to Minnesota.

agatha christie disappearance
Heeeeeere’s Audrey! This pic was on the news about 1 million times for a week in spring of 2004…

We were on tour of the East Coast and into Toronto at that point and her abduction was all over the news, because missing girls was huge on CNN at the time. So it was neat that everyone knew where Madison was because it was on their TV screens for several hours each evening, which made it look all the stupider when they found out it was just a stunt.

So, what was Agatha’s deal then? The first inclination was that it might be a publicity stunt to drum up sales for her books, but that’s kind of a stretch. You gotta really be in the deep end when it comes to sales if you’re going to fake your own disappearance for some press.

Other people believed her story of amnesia and that it might have been an actual “fugue state” where you forget who you are for a little while. I recalled a story I read in Vice a little while ago about a British woman who lost 15 years of her life overnight due to amnesia, so these things absolutely can happen. The entire second half of Lost Highway, which is a pretty great, if completely weird-even-for-him, David Lynch film, goes into the same territory.

agatha christie disappearance
Robert Blake as the “Mystery Man” from Lost Highway, a few years later he’d have his own true crime story…

When you go into a fugue state, which can often be brought on by trauma, you can change identities. It’s kind of like Dissociative Identity Disorder (better known as Multiple Personality Disorder) where you just become a different person for a little while. Walt uses it as an excuse when he’s kidnapped by Tuco early on in Breaking Bad (and that shouldn’t be spoilers, because honestly, you should have seen Breaking Bad by now, what are you living on the Moon?)

Writers use “fugue states” in movies and TV all the time, even my beloved Doctor Who uses it in the mostly silly Christmas special, “The Next Doctor”. And Doctor Who even had their own episode devoted to giving Mrs. Christie’s disappearance a more extraterrestrial explanation with “The Unicorn and The Wasp”. A movie called Agatha from the late 70s is another fun fictional account of what might have happened to her.

The thing is with fugue states and multiple personalities, how do you know if people are telling the truth. But I think it’s more likely to happen to people that are screwed up in a variety of ways, probably not someone who had it together for most of the time like Dame Agatha did. And it didn’t help that she was silent about the reasons for her disappearance for the rest of her life.

So, what do I think happened? She freaked out that her husband wanted to leave her and was doing it with a younger woman. It was life-altering heart-crushing news. She decided to run away for a little while to get an escape and then concocted something so the pain that she felt inside would be transferred to people looking for her and caring about what happened to her as well as getting a bit of revenge on the man that betrayed her. It might even have been Gone Girl-style where she wanted him to be implicated in her disappearance as punishment for his philandering, even if only for a little while.

While Agatha Christie was a wealthy modern woman, she also was someone who clung to some traditional values about marriage and family. When those values were shattered so shortly after the death of her mother, it might have made her crack as well.

This week’s song is dedicated to that woman who emerged from her car that night in December to run away from her fractured life. It’s called “Agatha” by Sunspot.

Agatha Agatha Agatha Agatha
Agatha Agatha Agatha Agatha

They found your car
by the lake
but you were gone
without a trace
And all the news they
showed your face
and everyone
called out your name.

I know that something in you died that day
Sometimes we all just need to run away

And I heard them say

Sometimes life
imitates art
sometimes you need
a brand new start
after it all just breaks apart
when you need some time to heal your heart

I know that something in you died that day
Sometimes we all just need to run away

And I heard them say

Agatha Agatha Agatha Agatha
Where did you go?
Agatha Agatha Agatha Agatha
Where did you go?

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.