56 – Have an Out of Body Experience: With Luis Minero

Out of Body Experiences (OBEs) are one of the least talked about paranormal phenomena, a lot of people have so much invested into the idea of your consciousness leaving your body at the time of death, that we forget that some people claim that they can leave their body and travel while they’re alive! 

It’s been called astral projection and spirit walking as well, and it’s something we talked about in the episode with Garnet Schulhauser and his spirit guide, Albert.  There’s an excellent cinematic representation of an out of body experience with Jake Busey and Michael J. Fox in Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners (which if you haven’t seen, you should probably go check it out, because it’s a great movie.)

But it’s also part of the Kevin Bacon/Kiefer Sutherland/Julia Roberts paranormal “classic”, Flatliners. That’s a decent one to watch if you’re interested in some late 80s/early 90s nostalgia. I thought it was pretty scary in Seventh Grade too, if that makes it more enticing.

Neuropsychologists call this “leaving of the body” a Doppelgänger experience, where you feel an illusory body leave your physical sense. Scientists have used these disassociative experiences to learn more about how the human mind constructs its sense of self. People experience this state through meditation, extreme physical duress, episodes of being near death, and  hallucinogenic substances. But others claim that its nature is more mystical, that our souls and consciousness can leave our bodies and  we have conversation in this episode is with Luis Minero, who’s the head of the International Academy of Consciousness, which is an organization dedicated to investigating the mysteries of psychic phenomena and human potential.

Luis first had an out of body experience as a adolescent, he was laying down in his room and all of a sudden he felt that he was on the other side of the room. This started happening to him on a consistent basis afterwards and he became fascinated with the paranormal.

Luis details one of the ways to have an out of body experience.

  1. Get into a quiet room and put yourself in a comfortable spot where you can meditate.
  2. Focus your concentration on different points of the body (focusing your concentration = energy) and start moving that concentration from your head to your feet slowly.
  3. Increase the speed of moving the energy from top to bottom until it feels like your body is vibrating quickly.  Okay, we’d love for anyone to give this a try and see what happens. I’ve never had an out of body experience (my sister has though and we’ll have to ask her about that on a future episode) and I’m definitely going to give this a shot in my meditation exercises sometime.

If you’d like to learn more about the subject and more of Minero’s techniques, check out his book, Demystifying the Out-of-Body Experience: A Practical Manual for Exploration and Personal Evolution right here.

The song for this episode is “Push” by Sunspot.

Hot breath on my neck
I shut my eyes
turn all the way inward,
go deep inside.
and my face is wet,
how I want this to be
anyone but me
someone else’s body

to push push push away and out of here
I need to push push push away and out of here

From up on high
I can see where I lie,
Some kind of fantasy,
pushed right out of body

I went so far inside
that I lost my mind
I came out the other side
that’s where I hide.
that’s where I hide.

I’m watching myself now,
somewhere outside my brain,
free of the terror,
free of the pain.
Turn away from the scene,
I set off on my own,
into infinity,
beyond divinity.

to push push push away and out of here
I need to push push push away and out of here

From up on high
I can see where I lie,
Some kind of fantasy,
pushed right out of body

I went so far inside
that I lost my mind
I came out the other side
that’s where I hide.
that’s where I hide.

55 – False Memories: Alien Abductions, Past Life Regression, and Satanic Ritual Abuse

So let’s say you go to a party and get black out drunk. It happens to the best of us, right? RIGHT!? Well, anyway, you don’t remember what happened but one of your friends tells you some stories about how you took your shirt off and put a tie on 80s-style, you put the lampshade on your head and jumped on the couch to dance. You start to remember bits and pieces of it and think that you can picture yourself wearing your favorite necktie and the lampshade and twerking to “Turn Down For What”, you start seeing it in your head. In fact, even though you start telling people stories about it.

“Oh man, I got so wasted, I started making it clap on top of the couch on Saturday night, I’m so crazy, man, I’m so crazy…” Except when you tell someone else who was at that party the story, they say, “That’s weird, I saw you just passed out in the coat room all night AND you barfed on my girlfriend’s suede boots, not cool, yo, not cool.” Um, but you KNOW it happened to you, right? I mean, you remember it, and it’s not like you can remember something that never happened…

But you can remember things that have never happened. Especially during hypnosis, where you’re at your most suggestible and that’s what we’re talking about in this episode (well, it’s the main topic, we talk a couple random haunted stories about Madison locations and congratulate Wendy for running her first 5K race!)

We being the conversation by talking about Betty and Barney Hill, their “missing time” experience in the 1960s is the Big Daddy of all UFO abduction cases, and it only came out under hypnosis. You can actually listen to the entirety of Barney Hill’s hypnosis session.

Regressing people under hypnosis and uncovering alien abductions became de rigueur in UFOlogy since and have included books like Intruders which came from investigator Budd Hopkins and Harvard professor John Mack (in fact, watch the whole TV movie from 1992 right here online), the (allegedly) non-fiction Communion by Whitley Strieber (the book that put the grey aliens in the grocery checkout lane in every town in the United States), and also the fictional The Fourth Kind, a found footage movie in the vein of The Blair Witch Project, which featured “recordings” of alien abduction hypnosis (with a title based on  Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s scale of alien contact, the third kind (like the Steven Spielberg movie) is seeing an alien being, the fourth kind is abduction and being experimented upon.)

cover of communion by whitley strieber
So why did all different kinds of people start seeing grey aliens in the late 80s?

But it’s not just aliens people are seeing, they’re also remembering past lives under hypnosis. And this isn’t just kids remembering things that they shouldn’t remember, it’s adults who are reaching way back to before they are born. The X-Files has a very memorable episode called The Field Where I Died, where Mulder remembers being in the American Civil War with Scully. It’s one of my personal favorite episodes.

And this isn’t just something from fiction though, even Oprah has had on doctors who regress people to past lives through hypnosis to uncover the basis of irrational fears in their present-day life. Celebrities like Shirley MacClaine have famously talked about their beliefs in the lives they’ve lived before and learning about these lives through hypnosis.

Man, hypnosis seems like the key to unlocking our memories, doesn’t it? It’s like a miracle because it can access details that we can’t recall consciously or memories we’ve repressed. It can even break the chains of the material world to teach us where our souls have been.

Well, I’m not saying that it’s not possible. I’m not saying that some people haven’t been abducted by aliens or have lived past lives, but I do know that the human mind is very suggestible, particularly under hypnosis (as per Wendy’s example in the show, hypnotists seem to love to make people act like a chicken. Sounds pretty benign… or is it?)

And sometimes people can have things suggested to them that destroy other people’s lives. The book Michelle Remembers about a woman, who regressed through hypnosis to her childhood, remembered a horrifying Satanic cult that abused her in 1950s Canada (a hotbed of Satanism as ever there was one) and practically set off the whole “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, where people were actually afraid that there was a cult of Satan worshippers that had infiltrated American life to the point where they could sexually abuse our children (Rosemary’s Baby as well as Arnold’s End of Days both insinuate the same thing). We’ll have a whole episode on the Satanic Panic and heavy metal and Dungeons & Dragons and the whole thing sometime soon, but the fact is, people’s lives were several affected by the suggestibility of hypnosis.

michelle remembers
These book artists love to terrify people, don’t they?

In one of her articles on the implantation of false memories, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, who is the foremost researcher on the subject, details how in 1986 a Wisconsin woman was regressed by her psychiatrist to help her cope with some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and in the repression, they learned that past satanic sexual abuse was the cause of her present mental illness. A Missouri woman in 1992 was convinced through hypnotherapy that her pastor father raped her repeatedly and forced an abortion on her twice. In both of these cases, the women later sued their therapists for millions of dollars.  Loftus’ article (which you should read because it’s brilliant research into an unpopular but important topic) even details how they were able to suggest childhood memories of getting lost in a mall into grown adults’ recollections even down to various details that never happened.

Memory, as it turns out, is a very plastic thing. A few years ago,  scientists were even able to physically implant a fear memory into a mouse through encoding its “engrams” (the collection of neurons where we think that individual memories exist). Memories have a physical form in our brains but we don’t remember things like a photograph, we remember things like a thought. Which means that we filter the idea of what we had that happened through our present beliefs. The truth is, our memories are easily manipulated, which means that while it’s important to react to fantastic stories of alien abductions and past lives (and especially any type of abuse) with sensitivity, understanding, and empathy, we must also be aware of the suggestibility of memory. People are telling what they believe to be the truth, even if it’s not necessarily true.

This episode’s song is about how people often choose to remember the things that make them happy while forgetting the things they’ve done that have hurt people.

“Selective Amnesia” by Sunspot

You know when they say you’re so bad it feels go good,
You just don’t know why you’re mad,
but you know you should.

And you were right when you said I was wrong,
And you were right, you were the lucky one all along.

I hope you’ll guilt is stultifying,
I got a feeling it’s not,
Because I remember everything you forgot.

Forgiveness is supposed to be,
a weight lifted away.
It’s hard when you can’t forget,
pain felt every day.

And you were right when you said I was wrong,
And you were right, you were the lucky one all along.

And I will pull up the anchor,
And I’ll untie the knot.
Because I remember everything you forgot.

54 – Ghost In The Machine: Devil Computers, Possessed Androids, and Evil Office Buildings

We’ve had discussions about Artificial Intelligence before from Skynet from The Terminator to whatever The Matrix ended up being, the idea that something that we develop will eventually become intelligent and want to destroy us is now a common theme. But there’s another kind of machine that has it out for mankind and that’s one that’s either misguided, possessed, or just has an inherent hate of us. AI, Schmai-I, we’re talking EVIL COMPUTERS!

When I think of a computer trying to kill me, I first think of two particular mean machines. Number one is always going to be HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. He’s not technically evil, he just got conflicting instructions. But I worked in software testing for several  years and one of the first things that I always thought about was to check for what happens when you give the software commands that might conflict with each other. What happens if you confuse the program?  Does it try to suffocate you and your crewmates all the while responding to your questions in a calm voice that sounds like a psychotic easy listening deejay? If it does, write a bug report, you think NASA could have paid for some quality assurance…

Number two for me, is the King of Siam himself, Yul Brynner as “The Gunslinger” in Westworld. If you haven’t seen the original, it’s a classic.  Michael Crichton wrote and directed it back in the 70s and it’s basically Jurassic Park with robot cowboys instead of dinosaurs. Some kind of virus “infects” the androids in the amusement park and they start killing people. Everything shuts down and killer machines are on the loose, instead of the T-Rex, you get Pharaoh from The Ten Commandments

“A movie with everything and Yul Brynner…”

There has been a ton of warnings lately in the news from scientists who are warning us that Artificial Intelligence will one day turn on humanity and kill us all. Even Stephen Hawking, and he needs computers to talk! Well, another boffin, Jerry Kaplan from Stanford University, has said that computers are going to be just too different from us to start becoming so intelligent that they just start getting upset about being held captive by humans and decide to rise up and kill us. In his words,

But it’s not going to activate one morning and say, “What a fool I’ve been! I really want to be a violinist, and play the great concert halls of Europe!

My point is that machines are not people.  They don’t have independent aspirations and desires, only those that derive from the goals we set for them.

It’s a nice reassuring interview that makes me hope we won’t be bowing to our new robot overlords anytime soon. You know what doesn’t reassure me? Wendy’s new Amazon Echo. It’s in her house and she talks to it like a person and asks her new “friend”, Alexa, questions.

Here’s the video where Amazon disguises Alexa’s true intentions…

Alexa is kind of like Siri on the iPhone and it’s similar to having  the computer from Star Trek in your living room. We play with Wendy’s in the podcast and you can hear for real what the future sounds like. It hasn’t tried anything violent yet, but we warned Wendy about it, we warned her good.

There are so many movies and TV shows that use evil computers as a plot device. Doctor Who has WOTAN (a sentient computer that’s trying to destroy the world and in a production mistake actually calls the Doctor, “Doctor Who” so it’s confusing too!) There was an actual movie, Ghost In The Machine, which was kinda terrible, so don’t bother. X-Files had a great episode (once again called “Ghost In The Machine”) where an office building tries to kill its inhabitants (and if you’ve ever worked in an office building, do you really doubt the veracity of that one?)

One of the nastiest is a movie from the 70s called Demon Seed, where a computer  tries to impregnate poor Julie Christine. But it’s a great example of a “smart home”, though. So if you have a Nest thermometer or those Hue computer-controlled lights, I think you’re going to love this film.

Julie Christie in Demon Seed
I thought I was just getting a refrigerator that told me when we were out of milk!

 

 

And there’s a ton more good ones, from Edgar in Electric Dreams to the Master Control Program in Tron, Joshua in Wargames, and the Red Queen from the Resident Evil series. We try to hit as many as we can (I also heartily recommend Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos, but I won’t give any spoilers away!)

We also talk about The Machines of Loving Gracea poem by Richard Brautigan from the 60s, which is about how one day we’ll all return to a oneness with nature because we’ll have developed machines to take care of all the difficult parts of a living. It’s a hippy dippy fantasy, but it’s also kind of nice. While the ensuing decades talked about the nightmares that evil computers can bring us, sometimes it’s good to think that there was a time when people believed the world might not be all just going to Hell. That there was some hope. If we can avoid those pesky evil computers (and when I worked in tech support I used to have to face those bastards head on), maybe we can start thinking that way again.

The song for this episode is “The Internet of Evil Things” by Sunspot.

I am inside your pocket,
Where I can pull your strings,
Because I’m everywhere,
The Internet of evil things

We used innocent language
like Gopher, spam, and mouse
You played right into our circuits,
Now we’re living in your house
How did you last this long?
You made a billion babies and never told them right from wrong.
How do we end weird science,
When did the PCs become such tyrants
humans have been outdone
they’ll try to end us
we can’t stop the zeroes and ones.
I’m the bug you just can’t trace,
I’m the ghost in the machine
I am worse than Windows Vista,
I am the blue screen
I’m the check engine light
That seems like it’s froze
I’m the pop up window
That you can never close
Don’t blame me when things go astray,
It’s not my fault I’m just programmed this way
How do we end weird science,
When did the PCs become such tyrants
humans have been outdone
they’’ll try to end us
we can’t stop the zeroes and ones.
I’ll write emails to your lover, ruin your relationship
Give you all the wrong directions and run you right off a cliff.
I will zero out your checking and cancel your credit cards,

You gave us all the brains but failed to give us hearts.

How do we end weird science,
When did the machines become such tyrants
humans have been outdone
they’’ll try to end us
we can’t stop the zeroes and ones.
How do we end weird science,
When did the machines become such tyrants
humans have been outdone
they’’ll try to end us
we can’t stop the zeroes and ones.

53 – Dream Interpretation For Beginners: An Interview With Diane Brandon

Dreams, man. We all have them, all the time. Sometimes they’re terrifying, sometimes they’re fun, sometimes they’re just downright nasty (and not always in a bad way)… But do they mean anything? Is it just the random firings of synapses that are going through the motions as we fall asleep? A shoebox full of memories, fantasies, and mistakes that gets shaken up in the middle of the night and put on display to entertain the sleeping mind?

How about messages from our subconscious bubbling up to the top, telling us things that we normally refuse to let ourselves think? Desires sometimes best left unspoken that only express themselves in the safe private haven of the dream world.

Or is it a place where people can receive messages from the non-physical. Conversations with spiritual entities, sharing adventures with friends, memories of past lives that might only appear in your dreams.

When I interviewed Diane Brandon for this particular episode, it was because we were looking to do an episode of interpretations of some of the most popular dreams. After all, she is the author of Dream Interpretation for Beginners so we thought she’d be the perfect person to help you guys begin to make sense out of the craziness of what happens when you dream. Interpreting one’s dreams is one of the foundations of Freudian psychoanalysis and we talk a little about that in the interview, but beyond just learning to understand yourself better, Diane believes that dreams can be much more than just the internal workings of one’s own mind.

She talks of dreams as the conduit to other planes of existence, can help facilitate an out-of-body experience and leave the physical body behind, that you can communicate with your friends in dreams (indeed dream telepathy was even suggested by the good Doctor Freud himself once ), and that basically it’s a place where the paranormal can and does happen.

Diane currently lives in Durham, North Carolina, (the home of Duke University which is the home of the Rhine Research Center, which is probably the most famous parapsychological laboratory of all time) and she began her exploration of the dream world when she was in college and she began sharing (not just discussing but literally sharing) dreams with her roommate. That led her on the path to work as an integrated intuitive counselor, which, okay, what does that mean?

Intuitive counselors help people understand themselves better. Just think about all the times your body was telling you something but your mind wasn’t listening. Ever have a job you hated and would get sick a lot, not just the kind of sickness you get after partying too hard, but you would get physically ill more often than usual. But when you went on to do some other kind of work you just discovered that you weren’t getting sick anymore? Or you might find that your body acting literally allergic to a boyfriend or girlfriend that isn’t right for you. Sometimes you might be angry about something and then you eat something and you start being less angry about it? Sounds like you? Well, that’s what an intuitive counselor helps you deduce, things that your body or subconscious might be telling you (often loudly and clearly) but you’re not getting the message.

So that’s when we start talking about how you can start analyzing your dreams and trying to learn more about yourself from what messages you’re getting sent into the dream world.

Diane stresses how important it is to get into dream interpretation with intention. If you aren’t really that interested in doing it, your unconscious will know and will act accordingly, not helping you with remembering your dreams well enough to document them. Also, a voice recorder is better than a dream journal, number one because you’re not exposing yourself to light in the middle of the night, but also because it’s faster to document the dream. The more time you wait while you’re frantically writing the words down, the more of your dream disappears.

Diane stresses the significance of getting a decent amount of sleep as well as a straightforward approach to nightmares. If you have nightmares all the time, you have some unresolved issue in your life that you have to deal with. Are you watching too many horror movies that maybe you’re not mentally prepared for? Are you scared of something, are you being abused? Having nightmares constantly means that you have some mental business to take care of.

We go through several popular dreams and what they might mean from cheating to flying to nightmares, to being naked in public, teeth falling out, and taking that test unprepared, and more. So, what can they mean for you? Take a listen to the podcast and find out and get a headstart on your dream interpretation. And if you are interested in taking it to the next level, check out Diane’s book, Dream Interpretation for Beginners!

This week’s song was inspired by the discussion of the dream world being a place where spirits can meet as well as the concept of the Aboriginal Dreamtime (something that will definitely get its own topic soon!) Here is “Dreamtime” by Sunspot.

there is no distance
there is no time
there is no boundaries
as big as your mind
collective memory
of a place we haven’t been
always recreating
when the spirit moves in

I’ll see you again in the Dreamtime
I’ll see you again on the ground
we’ll follow the song lines
we’ll follow all the way down

no when
no before nor after
don’t trust what you see
no when
no before nor after
you’ll never know what it means

there is no distance
there is no time
there is no boundaries
as big as your mind
collective memory

I’ll see you again in the Dreamtime
I’ll see you again on the ground
we’ll follow the song lines
we’ll follow all the way down

52 – Music and The Brain: How Sound Affects the Mind and Body

The episode starts with our trip to Bray Road near Delavan, Wisconsin which is where the legendary “Beast of Bray Road” was seen. We talked about the beast in Episode 51 – American Monsters: An Interview with Linda Godfrey and since we were in Delavan, Wisconsin performing with our band, Sunspot on Friday, we thought that this was our golden opportunity.

It was right around 10pm when we got there and it is a dark, dark place and it’s a pretty isolated road with only a few houses and surrounded by woods and cornfields.  There wasn’t a moon and it was super dark out. It was just the usual rural Wisconsin sounds of crickets, a couple of well-placed moos, and what sounded like a screaming bird (that was kinda scary).

Bray and Plank Road, Wisconsin

We took a stop at the intersection and wandered to the sign to get a picture. I saw some tail lights in the distance and I can see how someone might mistake them for the red glowing eyes of a wild beast, but really they were just tail lights. Either way, it was a fun little trip and it was nice to go “on location” after interviewing Linda less than a week beforehand.

Bray Road, Wisconsin
Mike and Wendy take a selfie with the Beast!

So, this week’s topic however, is music and the brain and specifically, how music and sound can actually have a physical effect on you. We start the conversation with the obvious, how music can assist you with athletic performance. Wendy talks about how she likes to listen to techno while she runs and I agree (my man, Deekron – The Fitness DJ has gotten me through plenty of runs!) But then we remember Jazzercise and if you don’t know what you’re talking about, then this little piece of the 80s is gonna hit you like a runaway train…

There’s research that shows music can enhance mood, but I think we all kind of believe in that. After all, we’re always listening to certain songs to increase our athletic performance or when we want to get really pumped up about something. But also that people who are frustrated in life tend to find music that amplifies their frustration. I had a roommate in my last year of college who was an ex-convict that hated his job but he loved Limp Bizkit. Coincidence? I think not!

Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit
Sorry about making radio suck for a couple years there…

I recalled something from the late 90s called “The Mozart Effect”, which was research that showed listening to classical music could make you smarter and the reason that it was in the news was because Georgia governor, Zell Miller, thought it’d be a good idea to actually put an item in the state budget for giving free classical music CDs to infants – yeah, that was a thing. But the research shows that listening to classical music right before taking a standard IQ test can actually help with some of the questions. So, while that was ridiculous, they might be onto something.

The Mozart Effect
No, Mom! Mozart makes you smart, Kanye makes you dumb!

We also talk about the healing effects of music and how it has been shown to help people control pain, stimulate antibody production, assist with the release of endorphins, and the research shows that music helps slow breathing and heartbeat. In fact, it doesn’t matter what the genre of music is (unless you’re a picky bastard like me), it’s the tempo that determines how fast your breathing and heartbeat adapts, it could be any genre from heavy metal to polka, it’s the tempo that counts.

They’re currently working on something called vibroacoustic therapy as well, to help people with Parkinson’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, and depression. They liken the therapy to sitting on the best studio subwoofer ever (but all I could think about was the subwoofer scene from Howard Stern’s movie, Private Parts, which I’m not linking to here because while it’s pretty funny, it’s definitely NSFW!)

One of the most powerful viral videos of the past couple of years was watching an elderly Alzheimer’s video listening to music of his youth and going from virtually comatose to alive and excited. It shows that music can stimulate brains that we can’t reach through speech and even medication. It was a beautiful thing to see and they even made a movie about the phenomena called Alive Inside about research into using music to help Alzheimer’s patients.

While music can be used as medicine, it doesn’t even have tom be melody to affect the brain, simple frequencies can certainly do it as well.  For example, binaural beats occur when you play two slightly different frequencies at the same time (one into each ear) and the brain actually processes it as like one sound and it produces a strobing effect. It was discovered back in the mid-19th Century but serious research wasn’t really done on them until the 1970s.  Now, some people say that they can simulate the effects of drugs, help people diet or quit smoking, assist in memorization, etc… but the evidence there is a little flimsy.

A few years  back teenagers were said to be getting “high” on listening to binaural beats and they’d post their exploits online, it was all pretty silly, but one thing we know for sure is that binaural beats can help with something called “brainwave entrainment”. That’s when you listen to a stimulus with a frequency, the brainwaves tend to go towards that frequency themselves so it helps put people’s minds into different states from Gamma wave production (like when we’re active and doing things) all the way down to Delta (the deepest sleep and meditation, where you forget your body). Binaural beats can help induce those states (and more on that when we get to our song.)

And speaking of brainwaves the Netflix/Wachowski (and J. Michael Straczynski from Babylon 5 and The Real Ghostbusters!) TV show, Sense8, debuted this summer. It’s about people across the globe telepathically connected and they made a song out of the frequencies produced by the brainwaves of eight people who had binge watched the program. It’s not the catchiest song in the world, but it’s still pretty sweet!

 

And for the coup de grace for this episode, Wendy reminded me of the greatest pop culture example of music affecting the brain called The Brown Note, where the characters discovered a certain frequency that could make people involuntarily poop their pants. I can’t believe I forgot about that one, it’s a classic!

This week’s song is an ambient track with binaural beats, every 8 measures of the song moves the binaural beats frequencies to try and entrain your brain from Gamma (>40 HZ), Beta (13-39 Hz), Alpha (7-13 Hz), Theta (4-7 Hz), and all the way down to Delta (<3 Hz), and then slowly back out. Take a listen and let us know what you think!    

51 – American Monsters: An Interview With Linda Godfrey

With books about Dogmen, werewolves, Bigfoot, skin changers, and the rest of the stable of American monsters, Linda Godfrey took an unlikely route into becoming one of the nation’s pre-eminent researchers into strange animals. This week, I interview Linda about how her journey took her from being a reporter for a small-town Wisconsin newspaper to becoming a chronicler of cryptozoology with appearances on Sightings (man, I miss that show all the time), Coast to Coast AM, Monster Quest, The New In Search Of… National Public Radio, and many more shows.

Linda started out as an artist and was looking to draw cartoons for a syndication deal when she offered her drawings to her local newspaper in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, the Walworth County Week. Those cartoons turned into articles soon enough and after a short while, she found herself as a local reporter.

While there had been reports of a werewolf-like creature sighted by drivers on Bray Road near Delavan, Wisconsin (where Wendy and my band, Sunspot, just happens to be playing this Friday!) in the late 80s (with some perhaps related reports stretching back to 1936), it was when the reports came to the attention of Linda after Christmas in 1991 that the story took off and her articles started getting at first attention of Milwaukee news, but then even international news agencies picked up on it and the story exploded. As Linda was the journalist who launched the story, she became the face of it.

Beast of Bray Road
Does that seem like the description of a lost dog to you?

And after becoming that face of the Beast of Bray Road, it led to people sending Linda other weird reports of sightings of mysterious creatures, not just in Wisconsin, but from all around the country. She continued to work at the paper and also developed her first book, The Poison Widow, about a murderess who killed her husband and then tried to kill her four children in Whitewater, Wisconsin on St. Patrick’s Day in 1922.

After the release of that book, she wrote the work that she’s best known for, The Beast of Bray Road: Trailing Wisconsin’s Werewolf. Linda elaborates for us the different kinds of beasts that she speculates are out there, from dogs that can walk on hind legs, to skin changers and shamanism, as well as the difference between these creatures and the clinical form of lycanthropy (a psychological condition where you actually believe that you’re turning into a wolf, but you’re really just running around naked and howling at things.)

We even talk about the movie The Beast of Bray Road, a b-movie that  came out in 2005, but Linda had zero participation in. However, it looks like it was written by a guy from Milwaukee, so at least it has a local connection. However, when they say “Based on a  true story”, well, that’s stretching it a lot.

Linda continued to release books throughout the 2000s (including the for-awhile-ubiquitous Weird Wisconsin and her own fantasy novel set in our little paradise of Madison, Wisconsin called God Johnson.)

But even if she delves into fantasy and other kinds of high strangeness, she can’t shake cryptids (and really, who can?) American Monsters her latest book has her leaving the Midwest and going nationwide in the lore of strange beasts. Of course, the most famous American beast is Bigfoot, and Linda gives us the skinny of her own encounter with a maybe Sasquatch right in the Kettle Moraine forest in 2012.

And finally we talk in more detail about the Milwaukee Lion. That’s right, we’re back to discussing the beast that’s been terrorizing the city for a couple of weeks now. I know last week, I told Wendy that I thought it was all hooey, but after my initial disbelief, I come around to grudgingly believing in it and Linda schools me as to why I should. First of all, there have been mountain lions spotted in Wisconsin several times and Linda’s husband almost got mauled by one not too long ago, just in the Kettle Moraine, not too far outside of Milwaukee. Plus there’s been sightings in Waukesha and Chicago in the past few years. It was fun to theorize with one of America’s strange beast experts on where the Milwaukee Lion might be headed next!

This week’s song is “American Monsters” by Sunspot.

While we were wondering what’s under the bed,
there’s been something growing we should dread,
and it’s getting bigger all the time.
Hairier than Bigfoot’s paw,
scarier than Wolfman’s claw,
there’s pitchforks out looking for a Frankenstein.

So scream your lungs out,
and look for a way out,

they’ll set out your insides out for a little bait.
A chilling effect,
when lives are wrecked,
by a mouth starving for something to hate.

Be careful what you say,
be careful not to wake,
the outrage of a beast with a million heads.
These American Monsters will eat you whole,
take your life from your control,
and won’t be satisfied until the trolls are fed.

Someone’s listening,
so say the right thing,
but the right thing changes every day.
The mob always wins,
Needles and pins,
You better watch what you say.

So scream your lungs out,
and look for a way out,
they’ll set out your insides out for a little bait.
A chilling effect,
when lives are wrecked,
by a mouth starving for something to hate.

You better watch what you say.
You better watch what you say.

50 – English Physicists and Russian Billionaires: The Hundred Million Dollar Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence

The conversation begins with a discussion of the “Milwaukee Lion”, the mysterious wild animal that people have been seeing in the Milwaukee area. Some say it’s a mountain lion that someone kept as an exotic pet and then escaped, but Mike and Wendy don’t quite believe it (even though Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts said that the lion had been spotted only a mile away from her house on Sunday night the 26th.)

Milwaukee Lion
Screen capture of a cell phone video of the “Milwaukee Lion”

But the main discussion comes from the $100 million grant that Russian billionaire, Yuri Milner, has dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and how he’s being joined by the everyone’s favorite English physicist with a robot voice, Stephen Hawking.

Yuri Milsner and Stephen Hawking
Mr. Hawking, is this man scaring you? Because he’s scaring us.

In the past, Hawking has warned that when we finally make contact with alien life, it might be like when Columbus came to the New World and you know how well that turned out for the Native Americans (this quote was featured in the awesome trailer for the film Skyline, which only set us up for a gigantic disappointment when we actually saw the movie and discovered that they forgot to write a script.)

But the search for life on other planets has been ongoing for several decades now with the SETI Institute whose history begins in 1960 when a pair of scientists put forth the idea that we should be combing the skies not just for visual proof of alien intelligence, but we should use radio telescopes to see what we can hear!

We discuss the Drake Equation, the Fermi Paradox, and more as we go into the history of SETI, it’s relationship to NASA and the University of California – Berkeley, how we all used to have Seti@Home on our computers back in college because we all wanted to be the ones who finally found aliens (and how you can install it right now and be the first one!) And then the conversation finished up where Mike talks about his visit to the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico (where most of the radio signals that SETI investigates are collected (and where Mulder had his own close encounter in the Season 3 X-Files opener) as well as his Search for Extraterrestrial Life class at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley when he was was just a wee nerd.

Mike at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico
Two tickets to the gun show, ladies!

 

This week’s song is “Square Root of All Evil” by Sunspot


They say money gives you peace of mind,
but money don’t make you satisfied.
I guess it all depends on what you wanna do,
I only want enough to say F U.

and own my own jet pack,
have a blonde with a fake rack,
do more drugs than Kerouac,
and buy a sports team.

use a Van Gogh as TP,
have a personal chimpanzee,
buy everything on QVC,
and live on ice cream.

and drive around a red corvette,
buy up all the art in the Met,
have a Liger as a pet,
and sleep in all day.

break the law just to get off,
hang around with Hasselhoff,
get the birthmark off Gorbachev,
and eat all buffets.

This is the way we ride,
we can tell the world to kiss our butts.
This is the way we roll,
when we can tell the haters what to suck.

They say money gives you peace of mind,
but money don’t make you satisfied.
I guess it all depends on what you wanna do,
I only want enough to say F U.

When I am king on my island made of cheese,
I’ll buy all respect and make everyone say pretty please,
I’ll trademark comedy and sell jokes for a penny,
I’ll be the banker of loyalty,
Copyright happiness and when you smile,
You’ll have to pay a royalty to me.

They say money gives you peace of mind, (I want more)
but money don’t make you satisfied. (I want more)
I guess it all depends on what you wanna do,
I only want enough to say F U.

49 – The Stanford Prison Experiment: How A Place Can Change Your Personality

It’s Summertime in the Midwest, so Mike and Wendy don’t waste the nice afternoon by recording this podcast on a patio outside (so excuse if you hear a little traffic or some birds every once in awhile.) First things first, we’re coming up on episode 50 – so if you want to win a fun prize package, just tweet at us (@othersidetalk) your favorite episode so far along with the hashtag #otherside50 and we’ll pick some people randomly to get a totally sweet prize package of music and merchandise for celebrating our 50th episode with us next week!

So, one of the movies that just came out is a dramatization of an experiment gone awry from the Me Decade. In 1971, the US Naval Research Institute funded research by well known evil scientist, Doctor Philip Zimbardo (for real, Mike used to watch his videos in psychology class and the man can hypnotize people instantly and make them do crazy things, like submerge their hand in ice cold water for long periods of time and then have them calmly tell them how much pain they feel. Sure, it’s super cool, but damn, man…)

Doctor Philip Zimbardo
I’m just smiling thinking about all the ways that I can control your mind, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Okay okay, he’s not really an evil scientist at all, but one of the world’s most respected psychological researchers as well as a president of the American Psychological Association, and by all accounts, a pretty nice guy with good intentions (to dominate your brain!) He was the impetus behind the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment (which is also the name of the new movie!) which wanted to explore the idea that just the very roles of prisoner and guard could somehow create abusive situations in incarceration facilities.

The methodology of the experiment is that they put up an ad looking for young men to participate and the twenty-four most “psychologically stable” candidates were selected to participate. They were paid fifteen dollars a day and it was supposed to last for two weeks. Half of the men were prison guards and half were inmates and they’d be set up in a “prison” in a converted basement of a Stanford University building. The prisoners were “arrested” at their houses and went through a full police booking process with mugshots and everything. The prisoners were given numbers and the guards were encouraged to refer to them by their numbers. The guards were given batons and uniforms to look official. Okay, two weeks, right? And it’s just roleplaying, people can handle that, right?

Wrong! By the second day, one group of prisoners refused to leave their cell. Extra guards had to be called in to “quash the revolt”. Prisoners who didn’t participate in the little rebellion were rewarded with better meals and a more comfortable room. By the second day. Thirty-six hours in, one prisoner freaks out so bad, he has to be sent home. Guards start making prisoners use a bucket for a toilet in order to punish them, others are forced to strip named.

By day four, it’s rumored that the prisoner who had to be sent home on day two is coming back to “rescue” everyone. Even Dr. Zimbardo himself believed the rumor and waited around just in case something went wrong.

By the sixth day, one of Zimbardo’s students (who would later become his wife) was doing some interviews and lets him know that things are really out of control and this is booming unethical. He proceeds to shut it down.

Just six days in and the Stanford Prison Experiment shows that regular people can become sadistic towards each other even just through roleplaying. They can strip each other of their humanity in a surprisingly short amount of time and for no good reason.

There were criticisms of the methodology, that the group was selected from a newspaper advertisement seeking volunteers for a “psychological study of prison life” (and what kind of people do you think are going to respond to that and can give up their regular lives for two weeks for a mere $15 a day?) And also the researcher effect, did people start acting like that because they thought that’s what the researchers expected them to do?

Over the years, the Stanford Prison Experiment has become legendary in psychological circles and is often brought up in popular culture. From being an inspiration for a great ABC Afterschool special in the early 80s (also based on a true story!) called The Wave to episodes of Law and Order and Veronica Mars, and now the eponymous movie that just hit theaters.

One doesn’t have to look too far to see shades of Abu Ghraib in this whole thing. What turned regular U.S. Army soldiers into the kind of sickos who would torture Muslim prisoners? Was it because they thought that was their job? Was it something they always wanted to do and thought that the could finally get away with it? Was it the situation in a Prisoner of War camp that made them resort to cruel measures?

So can your situation make you do things that you wouldn’t normally do? Prison is one area, but we get into the paranormal implications of it. If you’re in a place where violence or cruelty occurred or that is haunted by an “evil spirit”, can that affect your personality and turn you into something you’re not? That’s something that happened in our former guest, Deborah Moffitt’s book A Deadly Haunting, where her father-in-law changed over time into a cruel and evil man.

It’s one of the central tenet’s of Stephen King’s The Shining, where recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance gets infected by the ghosts that are haunting the hotel and hunts his wife and son with murderous intent (insert Stephen King’s own struggles with alcohol and drug dependency here…)

And there’s been many situations of a a supposed haunting in a house changing the personal behavior of the people that live there. One of the most recent cases is from Mayer, Minnesota in 2005 (one of the few cases that actually makes the newspapers) where the residents’ behavior starts changing for the worse when they started seeing shadows, hearing invisible footsteps and conversations, and the mother involved was even pulled down the stairs by an unseen force.

So, assuming a role can make you do things you’d normally find immoral, being in a prison situation can turn you into a prisoner or a guard, when in real life you’re neither, and maybe being in a place with evil energy can start twisting your mind. Next time you’re having unusual thoughts, think a little bit about where they might be coming from before you act on them!

This episode’s song is “The Bottom” by Sunspot.

When the bottom dropped out, I spread my arms and stood alone.
When the sky fell, I went through Hell and stood alone.

Disappointed is an understatement, better up your pain threshold,
Disappointed is an understatement, and you’ll just end up cold.

Hey now, pray now,
that your dream don’t die.
Hey now what will you say now,
when you get crucified.
When they beat you down you better have a real strong hide,
or you’ll end up just another piece of wreckage in the night.

When the floor fell through, I just knew how it would end,
When there’s nothing left, you find out the definition of friend.

Disappointed is an understatement, better up your pain threshold,
Disappointed is an understatement, and you’ll just end up cold.

Hey now, pray now,
that your dream don’t die.
Hey now what will you say now,
when you get crucified.
When they beat you down you better have a real strong hide,
or you’ll end up just another piece of wreckage in the night.

48 – Lost Souls of Nashville: A Haunted Travelog

This week, Mike and Wendy catch up after an incredibly busy week. Whilst Mike was in the process of relocating from Minneapolis to Madison, Wendy took a spontaneous road trip to Nashville to spend some time with her sister.

Nashville is, of course, rich with music and history. While in the city, Wendy took the time to visit a few locations that have legends of ghosts.

Stop 1: Gaylord Opryland Resort

This enormous resort, located on the former location of the Opryland USA Theme Park, is rumored to have the ghost of a woman dressed in black who wanders its many atriums and hallways.

Stop 2: Union Station Hotel

Several different ghost stories surround this location, including the theory that the ghosts of a derailed train linger at their last living stop, as well as a recurring scene of a soldier bidding farewell  to his lover as he leaves for war, never to return.

Stop 3: Ryman Auditorium

“The soul of the city”, Ryman Auditorium has a long history of incredible musical acts. Many of these performers are rumored, after death, to continue visiting the theater they so adored.

Featured Song: Soul of the City by Sunspot

There’s energy in the air
A sold out show tonight
A command performance
From the afterlife

I know it’s not my home,
But I don’t wanna go.

It’s not just a theater
The spirits live and breathe here
It’s not just a building
It’s the soul of the city

They whisper in the aisles
about the spirit of The King
Long after he died
He came to hear his baby sing

I know it’s not my home,
But I don’t wanna go.

It’s not just a theater
The spirits live and breathe here
It’s not just a building
It’s the soul of the city

 

 

47 – Beyond The Smiley Face Killers: Looking for the Hidden Truth in La Crosse

Since 1997, nine college-age men have drowned in the Mississippi River by La Crosse, Wisconsin. Authorities have consistently said that it’s a result of the men getting too drunk, wandering into the river accidentally, and not being able to get out (or maybe going for a swim and it’s a “death by misadventure”.)

It’s a case that’s close to our hearts because Sunspot has often played in La Crosse and Mike used to work at a television station there in the early part of the century during which some of these deaths occurred.

After Mike and Wendy talk about their new 5-star review, they go into the history of the “smiley face killers” theory.

In 2008, two retired NYPD detectives, Frank Gannon and Anthony Duarte, came up with a controversial theory. They said that a group of serial killers was roaming the Interstate Highways along the Mississippi River and was killing young men all over the country and throwing them in the river to hide their crimes. The detectives claimed that was a pattern of “smiley faces” at each of the scenes where the victims went into the river.

Here’s a documentary about it:

But Neil Sanders, a retired deputy Medical Examiner from La Crosse, just didn’t believe that the “smiley face killers” theory added up and wanted to see if there might be something more to it than serial killers or drunken accidents. He wanted to look into a supernatural explanation. That’s when he contacted Jay Bachochin of Wisconsin Paranormal Investigations and that formed the basis of the documentary film, directed by Scott Markus, The Hidden Truth?. 

Mike and Wendy are then joined by Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts and they proceed to interview Sanders, Bachochin, and Markus about the movie and some of their theories.

There was a steam boat that sank in La Crosse in 1870, the War Eagle, where 5 people died, including a young woman named Mary Ulrich. One of the theories that they pose in the film is that the recent drowning victims might have been “more open to spiritual channels” while inebriated and heard Mary or another ghosts’ voice and jumped in the water to try and save them.

Another part of the movie has Neil talking to a Ho Chunk elder about the “water spirits” of some Native American legends, supernatural entities that live in river and lakes. This is similar to the Slavic vodyanoy or the Welsh kelpie, and that creature was known over here as “the water man”. Allison proceeds to talk about some research that she’s discovered in a 1930s collection of American folklore about water spirits and how the water man might try to “take your soul”!

Jay and Scott talk about their interest in the paranormal and their search for the truth above anything else and how it influenced their decision to document the paranormal investigation into a film. Scott discusses the weird things that happened to some of their equipment while conducting the investigation over the site of the War Eagle sinking and Jay goes into some detail about an interesting EVP that they capture as well.

Paranormal vs. a serial killer vs. accidental drowning – there’s no smoking gun and conclusive evidence in any of the directions. But the conversation wraps up discussing how The Hidden Truth? respects the victims and gives us another theory to entertain as to their true fate.

If you’re interested in purchasing The Hidden Truth?, you can order a DVD copy right here.

This Week’s Song: Smiley Face Murder Club by Sunspot

You were stumbling when you walked along the river,
You were crying when you walked along the river.
You never heard me follow you,
You shoulda watched your liquor.
No one ever expects to be lost without a trace,
No one ever expects the smiling face.

I don’t give a damn what your name was,
I don’t give a damn who you were.
You could have been somebody else,
but it was just your turn.

I wanted to know what it felt like,
and it’s not fair.
But they won’t ever understand,
the bond we now share.
No one ever expects to be lost without a trace,
No one ever expects the smiling face.

A rock band's journey into the afterlife, UFOs, entertainment, and weird science.

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