Tag Archives: Milwaukee Paranormal Conference

114 – Ghosts of Riverfish: The Peculiar Haunting of Erin Petti

First things first here’s a big announcement… our very own Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts was awarded the very first Wisconsin Paranormal Researcher of the Year award! Huzzah!

Allison Jornlin - Wisconsin Paranormal Reseaecher od the Year!
Allison Jornlin – Wisconsin Paranormal Researcher of the Year!

It really was a privilege to be part of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference this last weekend. Wendy and I had a chance to lead the interview session with Paranormal Lockdown‘s Katrina Weidman and we all got to see a special never-before-shown preview of their 2016 Halloween special. It was fun and she was really down-to-earth. The whole convention was an ace mix of healthy skepticism, open mindedness,  and intellectual curiosity. It was great making lots of new friends and solidifying existing friendships with other paranormal lovers.

Speaking of new friends, this episode features an interview with our new friend, children’s book author Erin Petti. She’s just released a new novel called The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee. Much like we were just saying about the mix of healthy skepticism and open-minded imagination that we found in Milwaukee this past weekend, Thelma is always conducting scientific experiments while being close friends with a paranormal investigator.

After her father receives a strange jewelry box at his antique shop, he disappears, seemingly kidnapped by ghosts. Now it’s up to Thelma, an extraordinary unceasingly curious eleven-year old dynamo living in Riverfish, Massachussetts to solve the mystery and bring her father home.

Children's Author Erin Petti at the release of The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee
Children’s Author Erin Petti at the release of The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee

Sounds like a fun book, and if Erin Petti’s prose is as delightful as her conversation, then A Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee should be a big hit. Growing up near the Boston area, Erin caught the supernatural bug while reading Anne Rice’s classic Interview With The Vampire and that was her gateway into the wonderful world of genre fiction. In the interview we geek out on Lestat and even the Guns n’ Roses version of “Sympathy for the Devil” that featured in the closing credit of the movie.

brad pitt tom cruise interview with the vampire
The world’s studliest men wearing make up in 1994…

From being “the friend who loved the Ouija Board in high school” to working summers at the mansion in Salem that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables to the ghost stories of Emerson College, Erin Petti is extremely well-versed in the supernatural lore of New England.

And that’s one of the aspects of a great paranormal story. How many times have we talked about the original Ghostbusters on our show? Probably a thousand (in only 114 episodes!) But we consistently declare that it’s not just the classic comedy that keeps us watching, but Dan Aykroyd’s depth of knowledge of paranormal activity and psychical research. His affection is what makes it timeless for weirdos like us to keep coming back.

It’s this well of affection for New England (Riverfish is based on a small town that Erin had spent a great deal of time) and an understanding the traditions, folklore, and legends of Massachusetts that helps sell the tale. Great stories need memorable characters and those characters need to live in a world that people can relate to. This is true for paranormal stories even more than others, because they live and die (and then come back from the dead!) based on how ‘real’ the world feels. There needs to be some aspect of normal human behavior to contrast against the supernatural aspects. If Alice was as bananas as everyone else was in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll would feel more like Hunter S. Thompson!

Erin Petti's The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee

If you’d like to pick up a copy of The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee, you can grab it at your favorite book store or order it online right here.

This week’s Sunspot song was inspired by some “psychic vampires” that we’ve had to  contend with in the past. It also won the Madison Area Music Association Video of the Year in 2008, here is a little black and white slab of dark rock n’ roll, “Sweet Relief”.

I’m just a puppet in your hands,
a slave to your demands,
too terrified to live life on my own.
Soldier for your affection,
doll in your collection,
but you’ve got a mind I’ll never know.

Sweet relief,
why can’t you stay?
Just a moment longer.
Sweet relief,
your smile I’ll save.

Tied to my purse,
the martyr’s curse,
tangled in the Cat’s Cradle of your plan.
Spend all night on a call,
debating nothing at all,
thinking I can save what no one else can.

Sweet relief,
why can’t you stay?
Just a moment longer.
Sweet relief,
your smile I’ll save.
The vampires that prey on my conscience,
will trade my goodwill for my common sense.
Sweet relief,
why can’t you stay?

And this resolve is gone,
the eggshells I’ve been walking on.
Can I carry on?
Can I carry on?
When this freedom is gone,
can I carry on?
Being your servant and your boy,
your trifle and your toy,
drained until all that’s left of me is a void.

Sweet relief,
why can’t you stay?
Just a moment longer.
Sweet relief,
your smile I’ll save.
The vampires that prey on my conscience,
will trade my goodwill for my common sense.
Sweet relief,
why can’t you stay?

 

 

109 – Androids, Angels, and Albemuth: The Paranormal Mind of Philip K. Dick

Science fiction is the most popular form of modern entertainment.  Every summer we’re treated to an alien invasion movie or the latest comic book adventure and even the biggest show on American television glamorizes sci-fi “nerds” (even if The Big Bang Theory routinely get the details wrong for those of us paying attention.) Such was not the cultural landscape of the mid-Twentieth Century.

philip k. dick
Hi, I’m Philip K Dick and I’m looking through you…

Philip K. Dick (the K stands for Kindred, which you players of Vampire: The Masquerade or C. Thomas Howell fans should all appreciate!) has been one of Hollywood’s go-to inspirations for films for over thirty years now. Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Screamers, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, Paycheck, The Man In The High Castle, and many more. That’s right, he’s influential enough that both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have been in films inspired by his novels!

But all kidding aside, if he were alive today, he’d be a wealthy man. But science fiction wasn’t really part of mainstream literature in the 1950s and 60s, and Dick embarked on a strange life’s journey, full of broken marriages (he was married five times), drug addiction, bouts of poverty, and a religious experience that he wrote about in a half million words in his journal. His wondrous imagination that gave his readers so much to think about, had plenty of issues on its own.

Arnold Schwarzenegger total recall
I was the Governor of the 8th largest economy in the world, aaaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh

Born in Chicago in 1928, Philip K. Dick had a twin sister Jane that died only a few weeks after birth. While he was a child, his family moved to the San Francisco Bay and he was in the same graduating class as Ursula K. LeGuin (Wizard of Earthsea, yeah!), he went to the University of California at Berkeley for awhile and published his first science fiction story “Beyond Lies the Wub in 1952.

He was often desperate even while being hailed as a science-fiction genius. He wrote mainstream novels in the 1950s that all went unpublished in his lifetime except for one. His story “Impostor” was adapted for British Television in 1962 (and the screenplay was adapted by none other than Terry Nation, the creator of Doctor Who‘s Daleks) and his novel The Man In The High Castle even won the Hugo for Best Novel in 1963, but that still couldn’t keep him afloat.

He had drug issues, even in 1971, turning his home into a drug den after a messy divorce. He was into amphetamines and sedatives and different kinds of pills, even once trying to kill himself in 1972 with a sedative overdose after a new lover left him. He chronicles a lot of this fictionally in the book, A Scanner Darkly.

Dick’s writing dealt with alternate realities, paranoia, strange memories, and what it means to be human.  “In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real.” He said, “my preoccupation with these pluroform pseudo-worlds” is “now I think I understand; what I was sensing was the manifold of partially actualized realities lying tangent to what evidently is the most actualized one, the one which the majority of us, by consensus gentium, agree on.”

Hey now, what does any of that mean? Take the red pill, Neo. Dick was saying that we’re living in the reality that most of us agree on and that his works have been a peek into the possibilities of other realities. Alright, now we’re talking sci-fi, everybody!

In 1974, Dick was recovering from a dental procedure when he ordered some pain medication and the nurse brought it over. She showed up and was wearing one of those Jesus Fish symbols around her neck and a beam came from her pendant and hit him in the head, causing him to have visions of being a persecuted Christian in Roman times. He thinks something entered his mind that day.

jesus fish
I’m blasting out Holy Spirit lasers!

In letters, the author told his friends that some kind of entity was keeping “violent phosphene activity”. Phosphene is Greek for seeing light without using the “eye” because he was seeing things in his mind.

“It did not seem bound by either time or space … within my head it communicated with me in the form of a computer-like or Al-system-like voice, quite different from any human voice, neither male nor female, and a very beautiful sound it was, the most beautiful sound I ever heard.”

He added that he thought it was “an ionized, atmospheric, electrical life form able to travel through time and space at will … through camouflage (it) prevents us from seeing it. And he described the aftermath of his initial experience: “during the days following … the imposition – that is the right word – the imposition of another human personality unto mine produced startling modifications in my behavior.” He came to the conclusion that he experienced “not added perceptual faculties but restored perceptual faculties … we are imprisoned by blunted faculties: the very blunting itself makes us unaware that we are deformed.”

He later described the experience to interviewer Charles Platt as “an invasion of my mind by a transcendentally rational mind. It was almost as if I had been insane all of my life and suddenly I had become sane.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXqHJYz8NXo

The experience profoundly affected him and it made up the core of his book VALIS. The title is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System.

“On Thursdays and Saturdays I’d think it was God,” he told Platt. “On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I’d think it was extraterrestrials. Some times I’d think it was the Soviet Union Academy of Sciences trying out their psychotronic microwave telepathic transmissions.”

Philip K Dick VALIS
You should see his religious experience influenced his fiction…

“I was a spectator,” said Dick. This mind, which Dick characterized as female, fired his agent, tracked down editors who were late sending checks and modified his diet.

When he had the Roman experience, interestingly enough it wasn’t just that he was in Ancient Rome and existed among the persecuted Christians, but he described it as a “Dreamtime”, an Age of Heroes where great deeds took place.

And while listening to “Strawberry Fields” by The Beatles, it also revealed to him that his young son had an undiagnosed birth defect that was potentially fatal. And the revelation proved to be true and a doctor was able to save his child’s life!

He talks of the spirit as thinking in non-verbal thoughts, “It thought pure concepts without words. But it knew with ratiocination. It transferred to my mind concepts that in seven years of trying to articulate them in words, I’ve only now been able to reduce them.”

And going back to the symbol that started it all, had an extended visitation where he bought a fish sign with Greek letters on it (just like the Christian symbol we see on the backs of cars, in fact Christians used to use this as a secret kind of symbolism so that they could know each other…)

philip k dick robert crumb
Robert Crumb illustrates this so beautifully it’s a must-read

And this extended visitation involved a Greco-Roman spirit that would get confused by Modern life and wouldn’t quite understand what was going on. Dick said that he could pick up the other’s thoughts while he was waking up and falling asleep and the Greco-Roman person felt that there was someone inside his head as well. Dick couldn’t drive because the spirit couldn’t understand the pedals of a car.

He thought it might be the Prophet Elijah, because it originally happened during Passover. Elijah is a character in the Old Testament Book of Kings who challenged the King of Israel when the King’s wife, Jezebel, spurned her husband on to abandon the worship of Yahweh and start worshipping Baal, an ancient God of Thunder and rain.

Elijah sets up a match between the power of Yahweh and the power of Baal to see whose deity is greater. Of course, the Hebrew God windmill and Elijah is later lifted up to Heaven in a chariot pulled by flaming horses. Pretty sweet.

In Jewish ceremonies, they’ll often leave a chair out for Elijah, particularly at the Passover Seder and circumcision ceremonies (there’s a great Saturday Night Live skit with Jerry Seinfeld showing up as Elijah in person at a Passover Seder about this).

Christians sometimes think of John The Baptist as a reincarnation of Elijah The Prophet and this is who Dick thought he was possessed by the spirit of, because his spirit was more concerned with being persecuted by the Romans as a secret Christian and that’s what happened to John The Baptist when he was beheaded.
John The Baptist Getting Beheaded
John The Baptist And The No Good Very Bad Day

When Elijah had left him, Dick had thoughts of suicide, even though he was still visited by the A.I. Voice every once in awhile. He would sit late at night and write down his thoughts in a journal which ended up at over a half a million words and selections were published in 2011 as The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. He even thought that he could figure out the Second Coming of Jesus in some of his last journal entries. In addition to his journal, his stories VALIS, Radio Free Albemuth, The Divine Invasion, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, his final novel, the uncompleted The Owl in Daylight all deal with this strange paranormal experience.

In this episode we also interview Dan Abella from the Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival! Dan is a filmmaker who founded the festival to honor the influence the author had on modern science fiction and also to highlight new filmmakers coming up.  You can find some of the trailers to the awesome films playing at the festival right here.

There’s a European branch of the festival and they’re celebrating October 14th in Cologne, Germany as well as the 22nd in Lille France. For the statesiders, they’ve announced the dates for the 2017 festival as well, check out this snazzy trailer and check out if you’re in NYC or a sci-fi filmmaker yourself!

At the end of the episode we bring on friend of the show and paranormal author, Tea Krulos, to discuss this year’s Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. Coming up October 15th and 16th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it’s going to be a doozy and we’re happy to be a big part of it!

milwaukee paranormal conference
We’ll be the ones interviewing Kartina from Paranormal Lockdown, oh yeah!
For this week’s song, we decided to take some inspiration from the most famous of film soundtracks of a Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner, which was composed by the awesome synth-meister, TangelosWe even snuck in some dialogue from Blade Runner, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly (we’re saving Total Recall for its own superset jam one of these days!) Here’s us shamelessly aping the beautiful soundtrack work of Vangelis with “The Tannhauser Gate”.
 

43 – Bigfoot and Aliens and Ghosts, Oh My! Behind the Scenes at Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2015

It’s a special episode as this week we’re recording from on location at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference!

Mike and Wendy combine forces with Milwaukee Ghosts’ Allison Jornlin and Madison Ghosts Walks tour guide Lisa Van Buskirk! The event takes place at the Irish Cultural Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where a large chapel-like area hosts the main speakers for the conference, and a few side rooms host booths for attendees like us.

The Irish Cultural Center was a great setting for the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2015
The Irish Cultural Center was a great setting for the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2015

It’s a regular party at our booth, which has a color-changing disco light and is conveniently situated directly adjacent to an Irish Pub within the conference center. We meet plenty of nice people while sharing information about our podcast and ghost tours, and we ask willing volunteers to share with us the weirdest thing they have seen or experienced.

See You On The Other Side, Milwaukee Ghosts, and Madison Ghost Walks' fabulous booth
See You On The Other Side, Milwaukee Ghosts, and Madison Ghost Walks’ fabulous booth

Kicking off the conference was Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts’ presentation on Milwaukee Forteana (which is another word for unexplained and weird stories!) The main room really was a beautiful old church that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at in the 50s!

Milwaukee Ghosts presentation
Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts, talking about famous cases of weirdness from the Brew City

A lot of the presenters and speakers have made appearances  on our podcast before, so it was great to catch up with some of them, from Roswell investigator Don Schmitt to MUFON representative and Star Trek writer, Mark O’Connell

Hanging out with MUFON's Mark O'Connell, another featured speaker
Hanging out with MUFON’s Mark O’Connell

The exhibitor hall is a hustling, bustling place with a continuous din of excited conversation clearly audible throughout the interviews.

The exhibitor hall was packed all day long!
The exhibitor hall was packed all day long!

The stories range from ghosts to Ouija board to the unknown/unexplainable experience- the very kinds of topics we enjoy discussing on our show:

  1. Justin shares a couple experiences he had with a ghost who haunted his friend’s apartment in West Bend.
  2. Malia (of the band Ocean Rush) tells a terrifying tale of her encounter with a giant black mass that appeared as she performed “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in her studio.
  3. Vicki lived in a home which was inhabited by a musician ghost who would appear when she played the piano, and would wake up her son in the night with the song “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”.
  4. Haley had a week of terror during a stressful time in her life which included a weird presence touching her wrist and pulling her hair, her cat going crazy for no reason, and other unexplained happenings.
  5. Lisa had a roommate who seemed to be surrounded by unexplainable occurrences. Were these events caused by the spirits of tragically lost family members?
  6. Jackie & Shannon, of Stateline Paranormal Investigations, visited a graveyard in Poplar Grove, Illinois. At the same time and place within the graveyard, Jackie acquired an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) clearly stating “Here I am. He killed me.” and Shannon got a photo which revealed flames emerging from the ground.
  7. Nicki tells about a mysterious miniature hand print that appeared on her bedroom wall. Although it was initially quite frightening, the marking eventually brought a positive experience to her.
  8. Maria saw BIGFOOT! But maybe not where you’d expect…
  9. Chris of The Zombie Squad tells about an apartment he lived in that was above a haunted restaurant.
  10. Kristan of The Rundown Live talks about GIANTS! While doing some research, he discovered information about abnormally tall/large skeletons of people, which some believe could have been human/alien hybrids.
  11. Monica tells the story of her own childhood experience with a Ouija board. Through routine playing with the board, she and her brother started getting answers that actually checked out and led them to a local graveyard that they did not previously know of.
  12. David and Dave, fellow podcasters from Blurry Photos, share what drew them into the world of “weird stuff”. Then they share their own weirdest experiences: a dream so real it could have been an actual alien abduction, and a visit from a giant shadow presence that may have actually broken a hole in the living room ceiling.
  13. Tea Krulos, event organizer and author of the brand new book, Monster Hunters: On the Trail with Ghost Hunters, Bigfooters, Ufologists, and Other Paranormal Investigators (also our featured guest in Episode 25), recaps the day and receives a special delivery from none other than Bigfoot herself during the interview!
Mike and Wendy with Tea Krulos, the man behind the Con!
Mike and Wendy with Tea Krulos, the man behind the Con!

Featured Song: Bigfoot Polka by Sunspot

See that guy across the floor, he needs a good barber,
That hairy dude is desperate for a cute dancing partner.
None of the girls ever give our hirsute friend half a chance,
The main problem is that his feet are just too big to dance.

Oh Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Abominable Snowman,
is he ape or is he human?
He might be the missing link from chimp to humanity,
but when we dance those gosh darn feet are just too big for me.

You might think that he’s innocent, like he just wants a friend,
but he’s not the sweet beast we saw embrace the Hendersons.
Bigfoot’s stumbling around, he’s had a little too much beer,
I’m not gonna, how about you, tell him “get out of here”?

Oh Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Abominable Snowman,
is he ape or is he human?
He might be the missing link from chimp to humanity,
but when we dance those gosh darn feet are just too big for me.

This is bad, he’s getting mad, he’s gonna make a scene,
He’s grunting and pounding his chest, he’s looking right at me.
He grabbed a beer barrel and threw it right on the dance floor,
And now’s the time I think we all should polka out the door.

Oh Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Abominable Snowman,
is he ape or is he human?
He might be the missing link from chimp to humanity,
but when we dance those gosh darn feet are just too big for me.

Feet too big, feet too big, feet too big to dance, Hey!
Feet too big, feet too big, feet too big to dance, Hey!
Feet too big, feet too big, feet too big to dance, Hey!
Bigfoot’s come, we better run from those feet too big to dance, hey!