Category Archives: Blog

New Music Inspired By The Podcast – American Monsters!

So this weekend our band, Sunspot, released our latest EP, American Monsters. What we’ve been doing is creating song demos for the podcast for every episode and then after a few months, we pick our three favorites and go into the studio and record them. We’ve always used the paranormal and pop culture as an influence for our music, I mean we’ve made fan videos for everything from Torchwood to Star Trek: Generations, so our love of sci-fi and the occult has always been baked right into the music. We were having a lot of the discussions that we have in the podcast already (usually in the van at 3 o’clock in the morning as we were driving through the middle of nowhere) so we thought we might as well talk about it too!

sunspot music

We called the EP American Monsters because we thought it was a really catchy name and the episode we did wth Linda Godfrey was one of our favorites. She’s one of our favorite investigators and authors into the weird (and bonus, she’s from Wisconsin too!) Since she covered plenty of American monster legends in her book, we thought we’d take the symbolism of the wild creatures that she writes about like Bigfoot and werewolves. While most of us won’t encounter bipedal canines, most of us face outrage and anger on the Internet every day.

American Monsters: An Interview with Linda Godfrey

While I’m not a fan of the phrase “political correctness” (it’s mostly just a code word in the culture war), I do believe in diversity of opinion and that unpopular opinions (even ones that offend people) have a right to be heard, not shouted down just because some people don’t like it. You don’t win the war of ideas through crushing dissent, you win by convincing people you have the best idea. That’s the essence of our “American Monsters” and it’s a track that’s very classic Midwestern Power-Pop (think Cheap Trick, we even do a sly play on  “Dream Police” in the song.)

Silver Screen Saucers: An Interview With Robbie Graham

“Seeing Is Believing” was inspired by our conversation with the author of Silver Screen SaucersRobbie Graham. It’s a synth-rock Disinformation Age conspiracy anthem about media manipulation. Of course, the song is about how the UFO mythology of the past fifty years was exactly what the CIA wanted us to believe (something even the new X-Files embraced), but it really could be about any story that we get distracted by to take our mind off something that would enrage us.

Alien disclosure would be awesome, but I don’t know if it’s as important as knowing the food pyramid we grew up with was heavily influenced by the meat and dairy lobby, that the Drug War is necessary (and hasn’t destroyed millions of lives), or that the NSA has an actual Artificial Intelligence program named after Skynet from The Terminator. More people know the domestic grosses of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice than know these things.

Have an Out of Body Experience: With Luis Minero

I’ve never had an out-of-body experience but one of these days I’m going to, dammit! Dr. Luis Minero gave some simple steps to attempt an OBE in our podcast interview and one of the things that struck me was when he said you once you reach the right state, you just “push yourself out of your body” and that seemed like a cool thing to express in a song.

Have you ever been in a situation so traumatic that you would do anything to escape but you couldn’t physically leave? Something terrifying or horrible? A lot of people say that when something like that happens, they get that detached feeling of being somewhere else, watching the thing happen to them  – that’s called “derealization” and it happens often during traumatic moments. That’s “Push”, a song about escaping those moments, forcing yourself out of your body to be able to face what you need to.

Anyway, we just thought you might like a little background on the tracks. You can download the new EP for free at http://www.sunspotuniverse.com right now.

If you’re interested in learning more about our band, Sunspot, we have won the Wisconsin Area Music Industry‘s Artist of the Year (an award won by other cheese state luminaries like Violent Femmes, Garbage, and Bon Iver) and have won also Best Rock Album from the Madison Music Awards three times. Some of the latest reviews we’ve gotten are:

“Sunspot learned to embrace its charming weirdness… the band members are making some of the best music of their career.”
– Isthmus, Madison, WI

“They sound oh so, familiar and like nothing you’ve ever heard before.”
– Power Play Magazine, UK

“A perfect piece of Pop Rock.”
– Get Ready To Rock Blog 

We’re really proud of the new music and if you enjoy it, please let your friends know about the songs as well (you can find a bunch of ways to share it on social media right here). Most of all, thanks for listening!

Telling Ghost Stories From An Atlanta Hotel Bar

So, I spent a few days this week in Atlanta and in the late evenings, I did some unwinding in the hotel bar. Hotel bars are great for random conversations, so while I’m eavesdropping on people talking at the bar, I hear a woman conversing about the Green Bay Packers. In Wisconsin, this is par for the course, but when you’re hundreds of miles away from home and someone with a Southern accent proudly declares their allegiance to the Green and Gold, you just gotta say something.

Fast forward a bit and I discover that she manages a funeral home and that she used to own the Jacksonville, Florida bar where Ronnie Van Zant got into the trouble that eventually inspired the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, “Gimme Three Steps”.

So of course, the first thing I say, “A funeral home? Is it haunted? You ever see anything weird?” And then we’re off, talking about ghosts and then a guy from Chicago who is also sitting at the bar, joins the conversation and talks about how his childhood home was haunted and how he shares a special psychic connection with his Mother and Aunt.

Wow, and I just thought I was going downstairs to have a beer before bed.

Anyway, the Funeral Home manager shares a couple of stories about weird things she’s seen at graveyards. Her best story was probably about a bench in front of a grave and leaving her mobile phone microphone on it for a little while at night while they went off investigating the cemetery. When she was playing the sounds back later, she heard some scratching and tapping on the audio and couldn’t figure out what it was.

This was back when she owned the bar and she passed the phone over to one of her regulars who was an old sailor and asks him if he hears anything. He listens to the EVP for a few seconds and puts the phone down, then thinks for a second, picks it back up and listens again. He tells her, “I’m not sure what it is, but if it was Morse code, it would spell out ‘I Can See You’.”

So, good story. The next thing she pulls out are two photos that her friend sent to her that her friend claims she took. I’ve never seen these online before and she did have them right on her phone, but I was chilled by them.

I know that everyone knows a little bit of Photoshop these days, but do these pics look like they were made in an app or obvious effects? If not, these are some of the most impressive homemade photos that I’ve seen in a long time.

ghost photo
ghost photo

Billy Zane’s Film From A Real Haunted Studio

I don’t know if you guys love Billy Zane like I do, but if you don’t, I think you should. Yeah, he was kind of an absurd villain in Titanic, but I’m not going to blame him for that . I think James Cameron was more worried about the special effects than he was directing performances on that movie. I mean, he even kinda screwed up David Warner as a bad guy in that movie. Yeah, the man who portrayed Evil from Time Bandits, Sark from Tron, Jack The Ripper in Time After Time… he was born to play bad guys and he was weak in Titanic, so I’m not gonna blame my man Billy Zane.

He gets a free pass for the first Tales From The Crypt movie, Demon Knight. Hell yeah. The Phantom was fun too, but he is so awesome in that first Crypt movie that you kind of root for the bad guy.

Anyway, he’s been criminally underused over the past few years (even though I heard he plays himself in Zoolander 2) so I just wanted to give the man a little tribute on his birthday and draw attention to Ghost of Goodnight Lane – a paranormal thriller about a haunted movie studio that was actually filmed at the haunted movie studio.

They filmed the movie at Media World Studios in Dallas and the owner had experienced some strange things there and even invited a paranormal team in there to investigate. Once they studied the history and learned that the site used to be a ranch where five people mysteriously died, that’s when they decided to make a movie there.

This story on the local Dallas CBS affiliate even talks about the crew experiencing some weirdness there:

Some of the crew have witnessed lights going off and on, ceiling fixtures dropping and even voices calling their names.

His last paranormal movie was The Ganzfeld Haunting in 2014 about college students studying ESP, but his role isn’t too big in it, in fact the most interesting thing that I could find about the movie was the fact that Frog Brother Corey Feldman went to the premiere dressed up in a weird disguise.

Remember when I was on the cover of Tiger Beat and didn’t have to act crazy?

Zane is also fantastic in the Ed Wood-penned I Woke Up Early The Day I Died, which you can watch in its entirety for free on the Internet. There’s no dialogue and it’s got everyone from Christina Ricci to the giant from Twin Peaks, it’s the kind of film you have to see to believe that someone green lighted it.

Anyway, happy birthday to a great and undersung actor who has been in some of my favorite genre work, here’s to hoping for a lot more horror from Billy Zane!

Did Apollo 10 Hear The Music of the Spheres?

Did Apollo 10 Hear The Music Of The Spheres?

We think of space as a vacuum. In fact, because there’s no air, every time you hear a laser blast or spaceship engine in science fiction, no sound should be created because there’s no air for the sound waves to reverberate through – the only TV shows that got that right were the original pilot of the revamped Battlestar Galatica and of course, the most mourned show in the history of television, Firefly.

Remember Alien’s tagline? In Space No One Can Hear You Scream? They were playing off the idea that there is no sound in a vacuum. And let’s be honest, it still is a badass line.

That doesn’t mean that it’s completely silent in space, however. There are electromagnetic vibrations that occur naturally even in the vacuum and our Voyager space probes have recorded them, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

This past week, it’s come up again that the Apollo astronauts on Apollo 10 heard some kind of weird “space music” while they were orbiting the moon. A Science Channel documentary had something called NASA’s Unexplained Files and that’s what caused the online hullabaloo. So much so that CNN has had to cover it and NASA has issued an official response and finally recently released the audio. So, what did those astronauts hear?

Apollo 10 was the last mission to prepare for the actual moon landing that would happen in July of 1969. As the astronauts lost radio contact with mission control in Houston and went around the far side of the moon, they started hearing something in their radios. Here’s the quotes from the lunar module talking to the command module:

LMP: That music even sounds outer-spacey, doesn’t it? You hear that? That whistling sound?

CDR: Yes.

LMP: Whoooooo… Say your – –

CMP: Did you hear that whistling sound, too?

LMP: Yes. Sounds like – you know, outer-space type music.

CMP: I wonder what it is.

Okay, well, the non-crazy people of the world are explaining it as just radio interference when the radios of the lunar and command modules came near each other, kind of like how you hear feedback from your guitar when you play to close to your amplifier. The pilot of the Apollo 11 moonshot, Michael Collins, heard about it too. He even mentions it in his book, saying it would have “scared the Hell out of him” if he wasn’t warned that he might hear some radio interference during the flight.

While everyone else buys the radio interference theory, Astronaut Al Worden said that “logic tells me that if there was something recorded on there, then there’s something there.” So, if there was something there, what could it have been?

Back when I was a wee child, I used to watch a show with my father on Sunday nights called The Mechanical Universe. (It was usually before some British comedy on PBS, so eventually we were rewarded with some UK follies after all of the high-minded science business. He would tape it to show on slow days in his high school science classes.

They would feature astronomers and physicists and sometimes do dramatic re-enactments of the famous stargazers. While my favorite astronomer was Tycho Brahe (the man with the Golden Nose who deserves his own podcast sometime), his brother in arms Johannes Kepler always interested me as well.

While Copernicus (Polish pride forever!) was the righteous dude that helped prove that the Earth revolves around the Sun, Johannes Kepler is famous for deriving that the orbits of planets around the sun are not circular, they’re elliptical.

Kepler loved writing like a fourteen year old school girl telling her diary about her first breakup, here’s example:

“I was almost driven to madness in considering and calculating the matter. I could not find out why the planet (Mars) would rather go on an elliptical orbit…. With reasoning derived from physical principles agreeing with experience, there is no figure left for the orbit of the planet except for a perfect ellipse…. Why should I mince words? The truth of Nature, which I had rejected and chased away, returned by stealth through the back door, disguising itself to be accepted….I thought and searched, until I went nearly mad, for a reason why the planet preferred an elliptical orbit.”

Kepler in, Astronomia Nova (1609)

This guy loves astronomy so much, it nearly drove him mad! I’m not a scientist, but I’ve read plenty of research papers and zero of them are written like the authors are protagonists in a H.P. Lovecraft novel, slowly being pushed to the brink of madness by their quest.

kepler
Check out this sweet beard, I should probably be in a nu-metal band!

Anyway, what Kepler wrote a book called Harmonices Mundi, translated as Harmonies Of The Worlds. The whole idea is that ratios that are found in harmonies of music can also be found in the speeds of planetary motion. This idea actually came from Pythagoras (the dude that helps us out with triangles) and it was rumored that he was actually able to hear this mystical “music of the spheres” that showed that the sun, moon, and planets revolved around the earth in spheres whose ratios could be explained in pure musical intervals (thirds, fourths, fifths, etc… not jazz.)

So, the relationship of music to heavenly bodies has been around for a long time. If you come at the universe from the perspective of it being created by a higher power, it’s easy to think that patterns that exist in one place exist in another. It’s also important to realize that a lot of the greatest discoveries in human history came from people were religious and often mystical.

Music of the spheres

Oh my God, my back!

Kepler was doing his research in a world where astronomy was connected closely to astrology and he made the discovery of elliptical orbits while he was stargazing his way into a universe he believed was organized by a higher power. While those beliefs might feel ridiculous to today’s scientists, there’s a certain imagination that drives them that I can’t help but think is helpful.

Sure, it might have been radio interference that those astronauts heard. But a little bit of me prefers to think it was Kepler’s Music of the Spheres that was making the noise!

Bon Scott Ghost Stories

It’s the anniversary of Bon Scott’s passing today. He crossed over on February 19th, 1980 at only thirty-three years old from alcohol poisoning in London. The last album he recorded with AC/DC was the classic Highway To Hell. That album was one of the first seized on as an example of the excesses of rock n’ roll music during the Satanic Panic,  but the band always denied there was anything “devil worship”-y in the message, it was just an ode to the rebellious spirit that the band had lived their lives by.

Rock journalist and paranormal researcher Susan Masino spent a lot of time with Bon and the guys from AC/DC back in the day and we have an in-depth interview with her in Episode 5 of our podcast. She talks about how she still feels the spirit of the legendary singer playing tricks on her sometimes. And Bon Scott ghost stories are the best ghost stories.

bon scott stories with susan masino
When they’re held for pleasure, they’re the balls I like the best…

In 1997, AC/DC released a special live album called Bonfire near Halloween and in the publicity even held a séance to try and contact the singer from beyond the grave. Brian Johnson (the lead singer who replaced Bon in AC/DC said that Bon had probably a lot better things to do in the afterlife than talk to us mere mortals.

“I think we’re talking about if Bon was there, he’d be too busy shaggin’ something. He’d have all the good lookin’ women up there. He wouldn’t be bothered coming down here.”

Here’s the audio of the radio special séance where psychic Peter James tries to contact Bon Scott’s ghost.

You gotta love a band that’s not afraid to indulge in a little bit of fun after a tragedy, especially because Bon was noted to be such a mischievous character.

While Ozzy Osbourne would write “Suicide Solution” about Bon’s death (the meaning of “solution” in the song means liquid, as in alcohol), the band would hire Brian Johnson as their new singer in April of 1980.

The next album that they recorded was dedicated to their departed friend and it’s cover was just black with no album art as a show of mourning. And it seems if Bon could look down and see his former bandmates, he must have blessed what they did. Back In Black would go on to become the second biggest selling album in history.

Happy National Drink Wine Day – Wine and The Paranormal

Hey, it’s National Drink Wine Day! That’s correct, someone created a holiday all about getting your wine on. At Sunspot, we’re big fans of the fruit of the grape and even wrote a little track about it (along with special commemorative wine glasses) called “In Vino Veritas”.

But we don’t just love getting our wine on when talking about paranormal topics or listening to music, but visiting wineries can be lots of fun too (especially if they’re haunted and even more especially if their tastings are generous!) Here’s a fun list of haunted wineries (mostly in California) and this is an excellent article from Sonoma magazine about the history of several haunted wineries for next time you’re out in Sonoma Wine Country!

And of course, with all the wine brands out there, you know that some of them are going to have horror themes like Twisted Oak’s River of Skulls. The wine is produced near California’s Calaveras River (meaning skull in English) and the river was named after a Spanish explorer found tons of skulls along the river banks. So, that’s nice.

national drink wine day - river of skulls wine
Doesn’t that look like a pleasant little bottle to bring the girls over to share…

Or here’s a lovely Red Blend to enjoy today from Owen Roe Wineries in Washington State, whose name comes from a legend of two Irish families that had a rowing race and in order to win when they were behind, one of the family members cut off his own hand and threw it to shore to win. I don’t know it that’s in the official rules, but that is full commitment, man.

national drink wine day - sinister hand wine
Sinister in Latin actually means “left”… Coulda done without the blood though.

In more scary wine fun, the supposed real life story of a cursed Jewish Wine box provided the origin story for the movie, The Possession, which was originally entitled The Dybbuk Box. A Dybbuk is a malicious spirit in Jewish mythology, but I don’t see how anyone could be malicious after a few glasses of Manischewitz!

Anyway, enjoy National Drink Wine Day, which I didn’t realize I celebrated so often and really should be followed by National Everybody’s Hungover So Let’s Sleep In Day tomorrow!

Happy Birthday Ed Sheeran, Is There A Ghost Voice In “Thinking Out Loud”?

It’s a big week for famous singing ginger, Ed Sheeran. First, “Thinking Out Loud” wins the Grammy for Song of the Year and then it’s his birthday on February 17th. I first heard his music during the end credits of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug and liked it and I figure if the guy is alright with Peter Jackson, then he’s alright with me.

But the reason that we’re talking about “Thinking Out Loud” today is that people were hearing a “ghost voice” in the track. The moment happens at about 44 seconds into the song.

So, the Internet being the Internet, the rumor quickly went around that the “ghost voice” was actually a spirit who never found love and is sadly singing from the other side.  Or that the studio that the recorded it in was haunted and that it was the spirit who was singing along with Ed in the vocal booth.

This trended on Twitter last year and became a big topic of speculation for his massive teenage fanbase. Kids love ghost stories, cute singers,  and gossiping with their friends about it, so this was kind of a perfect storm.

And of course, when a topic is trending, there’s no reason not to have a little fun with it, here’s a video with over 100,000 hits purporting to analyze the track and find the ghost voice (but it really just contains a jump scare at the end.)

And this weird speech-synthesized video actually explains the whole issue as just an effect of the reverb.

Reverb? I doubt it. Sounds just like he was putting a little extra inflection in his voice with the word, “heart”. I can’t even hear a harmony background vocal in there on the verse. But when you tell people there’s a ghost voice in there and you can only hear it with headphones they start to convince themselves that it’s in there, especially if they listen to that section repeatedly.

I’ve been in the recording studio and have had that same effect. You’re listening closely to something over and over again and you start to hear phantom sounds. An echo or a weird note can show up that’s not really there when you listen to something repeatedly in a short stretch. Your mind starts playing tricks on you, that’s why it’s always recommended to leave for a little while and studio guys have special tricks to “keep their ears fresh“.

Ed, you’re a Grammy winner now, so you can finally afford that comb you always wanted!

The first studio engineer that Sunspot (Wendy and my band, we write a new song for each podcast episode) worked with was named Ted Weigel and we recorded in his Madison, Wisconsin recording studio that’s now long gone and replaced by the Brink Lounge. We would often start recording sessions in the evening and since we were paying the day-rate and didn’t have a lot of money, we’d record for long spells into the next morning.

Ted would always say “my ears are fried” when needing to close a marathon recording session. We’d always laugh to ourselves about that statement. We were still energetic teenagers and didn’t understand yet how your attention and hearing and senses would just get worn out, like a muscle after a hard workout.

I think the only way to hear the ghost voice in this track is to listen to it over and over and convince yourself that it’s there. So to anyone that can still hear the creepy background voice on the word “heart”, I’d say what Ted used to say in the studio so long ago, “take a break, man. Your ears are fried!”

The Antonin Scalia Conspiracy

While were busy working on the latest podcast over the weekend (our remembrance of astronaut and psychic researcher, Dr. Edgar Mitchell), one of the most divisive figures in American politics died, Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia. Conservative Hero and Liberal Punching Bag, he elicited stronger feelings in the American electorate than almost anybody else. And you could see that online, there was a lot of delight in my social media feeds at his death (I live in the liberal enclave of Madison, Wisconsin where just because you’re progressive doesn’t mean you’re nice.) Celebrating a rival’s death is a bit macabre, but this is the Internet, so that’s kind of par for the course.

Honestly, I care more about the agenda of Scalia’s Reptilian Overlords more than anything else, I doubt there’s any actual humans left on the Supreme Court. This year particularly, the Reptilians are trying to give us the illusion of “change” more than ever with those wacky “outsider candidates”!

So the TV show, “V”, was right this whole time!

He was found dead Saturday morning at a Texas ranch. Okay, it’s a 79-year old man on a hunting trip and no offense, but taking a look at the guy, he wasn’t on a marathon training program. Sounds like a heart attack in his sleep and a peaceful death, actually not that bad a way to go (I plan on going kicking and screaming, myself.)

But the first report shows that he was found with a pillow over his head. What? This wasn’t a David Carradine-style accident, was it? (Although there is something particularly poetic about a man so interested in protecting “traditional sexuality” dying in a way that Clyde Bruckman once predicted for Agent Mulder.)

Hey guys, I can laugh too!

Okay, now that I’ve planted that pretty little image in your head for a second, let’s talk about the Antonin Scalia conspiracy theories behind the death of a 79-year old out-of-shape man. Of course, my man, Alex Jones, was on the case right away. He says that his “gut feeling” is that Scalia was assassinated and that he’s wondering if Clarence Thomas, Ron Paul, or Donald Trump could be next. They’re old guys too, but I think eyebrows would be raised if conservative old men just started dying by the truckful.

However, if you’re 69 years old in 2016 and English, go see a doctor immediately.

The fact that Alex Jones exists, makes money, gets on CNN and Howard Stern, is almost too much fun for me sometimes. He can find a conspiracy anywhere and the death squads are always on the march. But as a wise man once said, “Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you.”

Beyond Alex Jones, here’s a guy that thinks the fact there’s no autopsy and Scalia declined his usual Federal Protection before going to the ranch are both very suspicious and an investigation should be opened immediately. He at least refrains from saying anything too crazy, but the headline “Forget ‘conspiracy theory.’ This is real.” is a little too much.

But this dude takes it all the way, saying

Is it also possible that an evil murdering homosexual communist President with only 10 months left in office could have ordered a hit so that he could drive that final nail into America’s coffin? Why not?

WOW. It’s one thing to speculate that maybe an extremely important and divisive government official was murdered by a political enemy. That happens in the United States sometimes. It’s also another thing to speculate that local law enforcement covered something up. That happens in the United States sometimes.

But I’ve gotta say when you call Obama a homosexual (we’ve all seen his wife and kids), Obamacare communist (it makes the healthcare industry make more money than anything), and a murderer (well, the jury is still out on drone strikes on American citizens), you’re going to lose some credibility with me right away.

I’m not sure, but I think this artist is saying that he doesn’t like the President?

But the Washington Post even deemed it important enough to discuss the conspiracy theories surrounding his death. Thing is, the more we talk about the conspiracy theories, the more people will believe it over time. Do you know a single person that actually believes in the Warren Commission’s official report on the JFK Assassination? I don’t. We’ve been told for fifty years that it’s a conspiracy, eventually you start believing it, even if it doesn’t really matter anymore.

And right now, the more conspiracy theories fly (even with just reporting that the theories exist), the more people are going to get it in their heads.

It seems easier to rile people against each other more than ever, and swirling suspicious questions around an old man’s death start the blood boiling before the body’s even cold.

It’s always going to be divisive when a Supreme Court justice dies in an election year and of course the Democrats are going to try and take advantage of that, just like the Republicans are going to try and delay it. That’s politics. And now we can distract ourselves for the next six months with the Culture War over the Supreme Court and then it’s time to go right into the election, the Political Super Bowl. So, maybe when we’re done arguing with each other in ten months, is that when the politicians actually try doing something for the people?

Huh, and I used to think it was foolish to believe that there’s Reptilians controlling the narrative.

Tim Armstrong from Rancid on The X-Files?

Spoilers for The X-Files episode, “Home Again”…

Okay, in the mix of paranormal and pop culture, here’s is one of the strangest casting choices that I’ve seen, Tim Armstrong from Rancid, was in The X-Files!

You can hardly understand the guy when he’s singing, I was surprised that he was able to get out all of his lines and didn’t need someone to dub his voice over like an old kung fu movie.

Sunspot, our band, still plays “Roots Radicals” by Rancid all the time. We learned it back in high school (before there was guitar tabs and lyrics all over the Internet) and before you could find the words on the …And Out Come The Wolves album, so that means I had to listen to that song a thousand times to try and figure out what he was saying. Basically, I just grunted and made words up that kind of sounded like the song until the chorus.

I thought Armstrong might really be into the paranormal too (after all, he was in a band with Travis Barker and some of that Blink–182 Tom DeLonge UFO weirdness might have infected him) but no, the writer Glen Morgan, is just a massive Rancid fan, and I can’t blame him for that. Wendy and I saw Rancid at Lollapalooza and they killed.

The promo said that he plays the character of Trashman, but if you’ve seen the episode, you know that’s not really true. Actually, Armstrong plays an artist who isn’t the Trashman, but creates a sculpture that his anger at the mistreatment of Philadelphia’s homeless population imbues the artwork with life and compels it to a killing spree. His acting is just fine, he needs to play a scared weird artist type that looks like they’ve been sleeping on the street. Tim Armstrong fits that bill just about perfectly. He even mentions Tulpas, the mystical Tibetan thought-form. The idea that a belief or idea held strongly enough can be brought to life.

Mulder quickly corrects him that the Tulpa was a mistranslation of a different Tibetan concept and that Tulpas never existed traditionally, but the idea of them was created in a book (during the whole Orientalism craze of the early Twentieth Century), With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet. And that was a revelation to me, The X-Files taught me something this week!

Tim Armstrong X-Files
Ruby ruby ruby ruby so- oh God, there’s limbs everywhere!

Before the reveal, I thought it was more like the Golem, which is an inanimate object brought to life to do his master’s bidding, but there was plenty of nice and gruesome killing and horror movie fun in this episode. You get to see several snobby rich jerks literally get ripped apart by a monster that rides around in a garbage truck. So, that’s nice.

However, just because that Tulpas aren’t really a traditional Tibetan idea, doesn’t mean that willing a creature into existence – the thought form – isn’t an idea that’s taken life in it’s own right. I talk a little about my experience with Tulpas in our Cryptozoology Round Table episode. And for a great movie about thought forms, check out Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Pope Francis VS Santa Muerte – The Mexican Saint of Death

So, the Pope’s in Mexico this week and everybody thinks of Pope Francis as a pretty liberal Pontiff. Frank is from Argentina and there is a particular strand of Catholic philosophy that emerged from Latin America called Liberation Theology. It’s all about seeing religion from the eyes of people in poverty and championing the rights and dignity of the oppressed and the impoverished. Now, in practice that leads to these priests supporting the redistribution of wealth (popular with American liberals, unpopular with American conservatives, politics, primaries, blah blah blah…)

Now, Jesus did say that it was “easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24)” So there is some precedent and J.C. was a big fan of helping out your fellow (wo)man. But, what does this have to do with the paranormal?

You guys remember Tuco’s cousins from Breaking Bad? Those bald twins that came up from Mexico?When they were first introduced you see them at a desert temple where all these peasants are crawling on their stomachs to make an offering before what looks like a skeleton in a Virgin Mary costume. That is Santa Muerte, literally translated to English as Holy Death.

Santa Muerte is a mishmash of Roman Catholicism and traditional tribal Mexican beliefs (kind of like Haitian Voodoo mixed Catholicism and traditional African religions) – the god of Death figured prominently in the Aztec religion and the Day of the Dead is a massively popular celebration in Mexico (Wilder Valderrama even starred in an action movie based on it, kinda like The Crow.)

santa muerte the dead one
Fez is back and it’s killin’ time!

People pray to an idol of Santa Muerte for money, health, or good fortune. And it’s supposedly very popular among Mexico’s murderous and terrifying drug cartels. These people still consider themselves Catholics, they just pray to Santa Muerte for a little extra supernatural help. Of course, the Vatican doesn’t consider it Catholic at all and in 2013, a Church official made that known.

So, the Pope’s visit to Mexico is important because while traditional church attendance is fading in the country, Santa Muerte is growing in popularity. People pray to her, punish themselves (often by crawling on their stomachs to the temple, like in the Breaking Bad example) in order to gain her favor, and even blow pot smoke in her face to get blessed.

Traditional Catholic Saints aren’t actually supposed to be able to perform any favors for you, you just pray to them to intervene on your behalf to God for healing or help. And people in my family have often gone to Church to light a votive candle for someone that they care about who is hurt, so I don’t really know how weird it is, especially in context with the rest of Catholicism.

Yahoo! has a pretty great story on the subject with some good interviews of locals who are excited about the Pope’s visit on one hand, but also devoted to la Niña Blanca (The White Girl, as Santa Muerte is sometimes known as). The traditions of the practice and it’s history in Latin American culture are definitely worth a podcast investigation sometime, but in the meantime the Pope is facing a dilemma.

Pope Francis has taken the mantle of being a champion of the world’s underprivileged, so how does he tell people that are poor, desperate, and looking for any help they can, that what they’re doing is blasphemy? That you can ask his God for favors, but not someone else’s? While the skeletal imagery is certainly disturbing, I also grew up looking at a statue of Jesus crucified and bleeding every Sunday, so at least la Niña Blanca is dressed up a little.

So it’s a fascinating and kinda scary folk religion (as anything often associated with Mexican drug cartels is), but at least know you know a little more of what those twins in Breaking Bad were up to!