120 – Inside the Wondertorium: Paranormal Circus Tales with Logan Marvel

Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts met Logan Marvel when she stood on his neck on a bed of broken glass. Since then, we knew we had to have him on the show.

logan marvel wondertorium
Boy meets girl, girl steps on boy’s neck while he puts his face on broken glass

It’s an old cliche that every kid dreams about running away and joining the circus, but Logan Marvel actually did it. In fact, he was so inspired, that he started to stretch for four hours a day when he was twelve years old. He couldn’t wait for the day where he could finally join the Greatest Show on Earth as a contortionist.

logan wondertorium
One fish, two fish, red fish, OHMYGOD IT’S A PIRHANA

And Logan made the circus his life’s work, working in several different circuses as well as side (freak) shows. Along the way, he’s learned superstitions and paranormal tales from Skin-Walking Were-Panthers to ghosts of the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944. Mr. Marvel is an expert in circus and side show history and he shares with us his stories from the Big Top and beyond in this in-depth interview.

logan mr marvel wondertorium
Not sure if this is what Taco Bell means by “fire” sauce…

To get you in the circus mood, here’s the promo for one  of my favorite X-Files episodes (featuring Jim Rose, whose book Freak Like Me was one of my high school favorites), the freakshow-themed “Humbug”.

Logan eventually made his way to Baraboo, Wisconsin, which for several decades was the headquarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus. If you’re interested in meeting Logan in person, you can watch his show live in the Wisconsin Dells. His Mr. Marvel’s Wondertorium combines the history of the circus, amazing feats of human physical prowess from fire eating to contortion, and of course, a healthy heaping of Barnum-eqsue showmanship. Learn more about it by clicking right here.

For the Sunspot track this week, we were inspired by Logan’s bravery and ambition to seek the circus life. As rockers, we definitely understand that drive. And if someone gives us a choice between living a stable “normal” life or going off and trying to make it on our art (living without a net!), well, all we have to say is “I’d Rather Be A Freak”.

I’d rather be a freak
I’d rather be a freak
Well, I’ve seen a million snowflakes who just aren’t that unique,
So I’d rather be a freak.

Let’s hear it for the weirdos who never wanted to fit in,
we ran away and joined the circus,
we ran to find our brethren.
Let’s hear it for the geeks,
let’s hear it for the damned,
we don’t ask for your permission,
we don’t care if you understand.

you can laugh and have a good time
it don’t matter much to us cuz we still got your dime

I’d rather be a freak
I’d rather be a freak
Well, I’ve seen a million snowflakes who just aren’t that unique,
So I’d rather be a freak.

Bottoms up for bearded ladies who have no f^&*s to give
It might seem that we’re all crazy but better than the alternative,
you climb the corporate ladder or try to keep up with a Jones,
I can watch you all scatter, and watch you fight amongst the clones.

you can laugh and have a good time
it don’t matter much to us cuz we still got your dime

I’d rather be a freak
I’d rather be a freak
Well, I’ve seen a million snowflakes who just aren’t that unique,
So I’d rather be a freak.

We’d rather be some freaks
We’d rather be some freaks
We’ve seen a million snowflakes who just aren’t that unique,
So, we’d rather be some freaks.

119 – The Brimstone Deceit: The Scent of the Paranormal with Joshua Cutchin

When we hear about paranormal experiences, we can envision what people see and hear. A ghost might moan, a UFO might quickly blink in and out of existence. We don’t ask people if they tasted a ghost, we ask them if they have ever “seen” a ghost. But we humans have five senses (well, I would argue at least six, but let’s make it five for the sake of this interview!) so what about the rest of them. People obviously feel the chill and the temperature change when a ghostly presence enters the room or the physical “touch” of a spirit like that of all the reports from Greyfriars in Scotland (indeed it even happened to me when I was there and I never experience anything!)

But taste and smell just don’t often get the attention that they deserve. They are the two senses that are most closely intertwined, smell dominates how things taste to humans. After all, when we smell something putrid, we often react by retching, like we just ate something disgusting.

Author, musician, and man after our own heart (University of Wisconsin alumni!) Joshua Cutchin decided to tackle these senses when no one else was handling the job. His book  A Trojan Feast: The Food and Drink Offerings of Aliens, Faeries, and Sasquatch came out in 2015 and it details the different food experiences that people have had in paranormal experiences. He’s now followed it up with The Brimstone Deceit: An In-Depth Examination of Supernatural Scents, Otherworldly Odors, and Monstrous Miasmas which explores the olfactory experiences that people have during their encounters with the other side.

joshua cut chin the brimstone deceit
Joshua Cutchin, just a Fortean and his tuba

We wrote a song called “Sulfur” when we had Mary Marshall on the podcast because she talked about the “smell of brimstone” that accompanied her first paranormal experience with an evil entity in her friend’s basement. What we think of sulfur (or the rotten eggs smell), commonly known as brimstone in the Old Testament, is really a compound called Hydrogen Sulfide and in The Brimstone Deceit, Cutchin details how incredibly sensitive the human nose is to the compound. Hydrogen Sulfide often naturally occurs near volcanoes and hot springs and ingesting too much of it is deadly for humans. Brimstone is said to be how Hell smells.

The Brimstone Deceit Hellfire
OH GOD MY NOSE… Is this what Buster Poindexter meant by Hot Hot Hot?!

In our conversation with Joshua, we talk about how this smell often accompanies encounters from demonic possessions to UFOs to Bigfoot and how his title The Brimstone Deceit really means how our sense of smell might be used to manipulate us in these otherworldly encounters. Could Hydrogen Sulfide be some kind of primordial trigger? It helps to activate our sixth sense like it activates taste? Freezing us in place with some kind of Manchurian Candidate extraterrestrial brainwash?

brimstone deceit joshua cutchin fairy food
It looks so good, but don’t eat it or YOU’LL NEVER GET OUT OF HERE

And from paranormal smells,  we also get into the link between modern extraterrestrial lore and ancient faerie stories as well. Why is it that humans are never supposed to eat the food or drink the wine offered to them by fairies? Why are faeries hanging out with the long dead? What are the similarities between the accounts of alien-human hybrid fetuses and faeries stealing unborn children and replacing them with changelings? We look for the connection between ancient paranormal encounters and modern day alien abductions through Josh’s incredible research.

If you’re interested in learning more about Josh and his excellent books, A Trojan Feast and The Brimstone Deceit, then you’ve got to check out his website. He’s also the co-host of the Where Did The Road Go? podcast which you should check out as soon as you’re done with ours!

helena bonham carter the brimstone deceit morgan le fay
I ruined Kenneth Branagh and Tim Burton’s marriages and didn’t even need any magic!

Since we spent some time discussing faeries (also known as the Fey), we thought it would be a perfect time to put our track “Morgan Le Fay” on the podcast. It was the first track we ever wrote as the band Sunspot. Wendy was reading “Mists of Avalon” at the time and everybody thinks that King Arthur is totally sweet, so we started with the main guitar riff and worked on the imagery.

Morgan le Fay is the lure of the naughty and the evil. Like Lady MacBeth she spurns Arthur to do things he shouldn’t (like um, father a child with his half-sister.) She is the instant gratification of material power and pleasure, the temptation of the other world that’s almost impossible to resist.

She wraps black wings around me,
I’m paralyzed just like a dream.
Sacrifice in a place I thought was safe,
A warning I would never heed.

I spent my life looking for the savior,
But he looked the other way.
She holds me tight,
Wrapped in the living night,
A kiss from Morgan le Fay.

Quiet storms surround me,
I close my eyes and she appears.
Freedom from all the lies that I believed,
From my schizophrenic fears.

I spent my life looking for the savior,
But he looked the other way.
She holds me tight,
Wrapped in the living night,
A kiss from Morgan le Fay.

Hail to the Queen of the Hurricane,
I shot my conscience full of novocaine,
I lost my pleasure when I lost my pain,
And no one’s innocent when no one’s to blame.

Have you ever howled at the Full Moon?
Or watched the Earth from the sky?
Have you felt the ecstasy of murder,
Or a power over life?
A power over life.

I spent my life looking for the savior,
But he looked the other way.
She holds me tight,
Wrapped in the living night,
A kiss from Morgan le Fay.

Hail to the Queen of the Hurricane,
I shot my conscience full of novocaine,
I lost my pleasure when I lost my pain,
And no one’s innocent when no one’s to blame.

Blame.
Blame.
Morgan le Fay.

118 – Conspiracy in Whitechapel: Randy Williams and Jack The Ripper

 

From Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson’s investigation in Shanghai Knights to Johnny Depp saving Heather Graham in From Hell to the terrifying David Warner escaping to the future in Time After Time, we continue to be obsessed with Jack The Ripper. Hey, even David Hasselhoff got in on the Ripper act with the 1985 made-for-TV classic Terror At London Bridge where the Ripper is reincarnated because the original London Bridge is rebuilt as a tourist trap(!) in Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Between August 31st and November 9th of 1888, Jack The Ripper killed at least five prostitutes in the East End of London. Slitting their throats and then gutting the reproductive organs, the gruesome murders drew significant attention to the impoverished Whitechapel area of London. Scotland Yard had eleven different homicides under the label of Whitechapel Murders, but only conclusively linked five deaths to the murderer they called Jack The Ripper.

Why do we still care about the Ripper? There’s been plenty of serial killers with a higher body count since he stalked the streets of Whitechapel in the 1880s. There’s been killers who were even more disgusting in their crimes. So why do we keep coming back to Jack? Or if you like, Jack The Knife? (That one was for you Priest fans out there!)

Number one, we love the Victorian era, from Sherlock Holmes to A Christmas Carol to a thousand BBC Masterpiece Theatre specials, there’s just something about late Nineteenth Century London that we cannot get enough of.

randy williams jack the ripper
‘Allo Guvnah!

But also the unsolved mystery has people coming back, 130 years after the original murders. Armchair sleuths want to be the detectives that finally cracks the case when Scotland Yard and over a century of true crime scrutiny haven’t been able to.

randy williams jack the ripper
Randy Williams at his study

Enter Randy Williams. As a martial artist, private eye, and former bodyguard to Steven freaking Seagal, (yeah, we’ll definitely have to talk to him about that sometime), Randy has led several fascinating lives. But it’s his career as a Ripperologist that brings us to him today in our first foray into tackling the world’s most famous murderer.

Randy Williams Jack The Ripper Steven Seagal
Randy’s theory is NOT that Steven Seagal was Jack The Ripper.

Randy has just released a new novel, Sherlock Holmes and The Autumn of Terror which fictionalizes his theory about the true identity, or should we say, identities, of Jack The Ripper. Let me clarify that the book is the work of fiction, but his theory about Jack’s multiple identities is 100% based in his real-life historical research.

Randy Williams’ theory is unique because it takes Jack The Ripper away from the world of psychosexual serial murder and into the domain of political terrorism.

When we think of terrorists, we think of bombs. But why do terrorists use bombs and mass murder to further their political agenda? Because the more people you kill, the bigger the impact you make. Osama Bin Laden didn’t think that he was going to actually stop commerce in the United States by flying planes into the towers of the World Trade Center, but he knew that tens of thousands of people worked in those buildings and it could have a world-shattering symbolic effect. And those attacks changed the world, leading the U.S. into multiple conflicts in the Middle East and turning Al Qaeda from an organization of post-Soviet Mujahideens to the most feared organization on the planet.

I know, I look like Santa Claus, but I’m really on the side of the proletariat elves!

Quick history, German economist Karl Marx releases his *Communist Manifesto* in 1848. Two years later, he moves to London, England and continues his writing. Karl Marx, to put it simply, believed that workers were being exploited by the owners of their companies and advocated an economic system where the means of production were owned by the state, so everyone is an owner and there are no social classes.

Marx advocated violent revolution to kill the aristocracy and create a new Utopian society for the workers, in fact he is quoted: “there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror.”

Okay, what does this have to do with Jack The Ripper?

Karl Marx advocated terror to further political ideas. And terror it was. From the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1888 where seven policeman were blown up by a labor protestor’s bomb to the assassination of U.S. President William McKinley in 1901, socialists used terror to further their political ideals. And while terrorism is disgusting, it worked. It brought attention to their movement, it brought attention to the class war between the ultra-wealthy of the Gilded Age and their poor immigrant workers.

Here are some REAL protesters. Instead of occupying Wall Street, they blew it up.

The United Kingdom wasn’t that different than the United States. The UK was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution so they had plenty of workers and owners to handle. But they also had a centuries-old class system in place that thoroughly separated the haves from the have nots. And in 1880s London, those have nots were ready to strike back.

So Randy Williams posits that the murders were actually funded by a Russian prince who was a Communist interested in social upheaval. He found his killers in the leadership of a socialist organization known as the International Working Men’s Education Club (IWMEC), which was a mainly Eastern European Jewish organization. They were interested in getting attention for the impoverished people of Whitechapel and instead of using a bomb, they used the knife.

In the interview, Randy lays down the evidence of why he believes that members of the club, Louis Deimschutz, Isaac Kozebrodski, and Samuel Friedman were the physical killers while Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was the instigator and moneyman behind the killings. Randy Williams even believes he has Kropotkin’s confession from years later as illustrated by the above video.

I apologize because in the podcast I mention that Karl Marx was a Jewish intellectual because I believed that he was. The truth is that his father had repudiated their Jewish heritage and Marx in fact had written some extremely anti-Semitic tracts. So while many Communists throughout history might have been Jewish, including the alleged killers in this particular Jack The Ripper theory, Karl Marx did not identify as Jewish, so let’s not go extrapolating from him to the culture.

But we do know that those members of the International Working Men’s Education Club were a poorly treated community in 1880s London, they were part of that working class that was looking for any kind of break in an incredibly impoverished area. And Kropotkin would defend the Ripper killing later on by saying that they drew attention to the plight of the poorest Londoners and particular the young women who were forced to prostitute to sustain themselves.

Heather Graham in From Hell, Milwaukee girl represent in a Jack The Ripper movie, yo!
Heather Graham in From Hell, Milwaukee girl represent in a Jack The Ripper movie, yo!

If you’re interested in learning more about Randy’s theories, please visit his Facebook page about Sherlock Holmes and The Autumn of Terror. You can also click here to pick up the book on Amazon right now.

Whether or not this Randy Williams’ Jack The Ripper theory is true and it was Kropotkin who masterminded a murder spree that still baffles us today in order to draw attention to the hard lives of Victorian East Enders, human lives were lost to make that happen. The murderers believed it was an acceptable sacrifice to further their cause. While that kind of terrorism is shocking and sad, it’s not unusual. Collateral damage is the term used in modern warfare to describe the civilian lives lost in a military conflict. But in this week’s song, we call those regular people who just wanted to live their lives, the “Grist For The Mill”.

When the boots of history start walking
well you better get in line
Cuz the great men do the talking
and the small men do the dyin’
when the kings and queens come callin’
well we all know the drill,
You and I my friend are just grist for the mill

All the smartest minds,
the lieges and the lords,
they’ve got the world mapped out
on top of a chess board
picking out their move
staking out their claim
and you and I are pieces
just pawns in their game

Our lives are planned
from start to end
and if we’re good
we can pretend
but we don’t get to comprehend
because the brilliant and the best of us
have big plans for the rest of us

When the boots of history start walking
well you better get in line
Cuz the great men do the talking
and the small men do the dyin’
when the kings and queens come callin’
well we all know the drill,
You and I my friend are just grist for the mill

They’re acting as the Fates,
they’re doing out our twine
they’ve picked out all the dates
when how born and how we die,
Don’t over step your bounds
you don’y know the score
just understand your place
to fight a rich man’s war

Our lives are planned
from start to end
and if we’re good
we can pretend
but we don’t get to comprehend
because the brilliant and the best of us
have big plans for the rest of us

When the boots of history start walking
well you better get in line
Cuz the great men do the talking
and the small men do the dyin’
when the kings and queens come callin’
well we all know the drill,
You and I my friend are just grist for the mill

117 – Paranormal Presidents: Superstitions, Seances, and Ghosts In The White House

While the partisan hysterics of the 2016 Presidential Election has amateur political pundits “unfriending” each other on Facebook and torn family relationships asunder, we’re more interested in the things that can bring people together. And nothing unifies a nation like a great supernatural experience!

American presidents are no stranger to the world of the weird. From Jimmy Carter’s UFO encounter to Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s enthusiasm for astrology,  the various Leaders of the Free World have not only had their own experiences, it seems like some wanted to keep the job so bad, they’ve never left.

paranormal presidents lincoln
Mary Todd dig the spike. Half the spooky stories in the White House are about Honest Abe!

It’s the Lincoln Bedroom that has a ton of paranormal presidential stories and people have seen the spirit of good ol’ Lincoln himself, his wife Mary Todd was a believer in spiritualism who wanted to contact the spirit of their deceased son and it’s believed that they conducted seances in the White House. From premonitions of his death to ghosts of the conspirators involved in his assassination, it seems like Lincoln’s afterlife has been just as eventful as his life.

Speaking of Lincoln, it seems like he was the victim of the “Tippecanoe Curse” of William Henry Harrison. Because of Harrison’s brutality to the Tippecanoe Tribe in Indiana it is said that they cursed him to die in office and that  every President elected 20 years after would die in office too. And it happened. From Harrison all the way up to JFK, 1840 to 1960, 120 years. Ronald Reagan broke the curse by surviving his eight years in office, but he was the victim of an assassination attempt 69 days into his presidency that he barely survived. The Gipper has his own ghost story in the Lincoln Bedroom as well!

paranormal president podesta obama ufos
John Podesta and President Obama – Was Hillary’s Campaign Chair pumping the Commander-In-Chief for UFO disclosure?

It’s the WikiLeaks release of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman (and noted X-Files enthusiast) John Podesta’s emails that has brought the paranormal aspect to the 2016 Presidential campaign. The news sites can talk about the DNC plotting against Bernie Sanders, private email servers, donations to the Clinton Foundation,  blah blah blah… we’re more interested in his email exchanges with conspiracy theorist/punk rocker Tom DeLonge and dearly departed astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell that made headlines earlier this year. Plus, just before the election it was discovered that he was invited to an Aleister Crowley-inspired “spirit cooking” ceremony, so really John Podesta is the paranormal hero of the 2016 election.

Cthulhu for paranormal President
Cthulhu for President

This being Election Season, of course people have been asking us about our official opinion for President and we’re proud to endorse a candidate that we really can believe in. We even wrote an Election Day song for our preferred candidate. This year the best option is to “Vote Cthulhu”!

There’s a lot of people saying
That they don’t like the candidates
They think the results are all rigged
They think their vote will go to waste
But there’s a choice you can support
If you feel your view is underserved
There’s a sleeper that lies dreaming
Who’ll give us just what we deserve

I’m voting Cthulhu,
Because it’s time we all came clean.
I’m calling Cthulhu,
Apocalypse is what I mean.
I’m voting Cthulhu,
To wake the Elder Gods themselves.
If you’re gonna waste your vote, well why not waste everyone else?

On the left or on the right,
It won’t matter where you stand,
When you’re driven mad from fear,
You just won’t care in a wasteland.
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

I’m voting Cthulhu,
Because it’s time we all came clean.
I’m calling Cthulhu,
Apocalypse is what I mean.
I’m voting Cthulhu,
To wake the Elder Gods themselves.

If you’re gonna waste your vote, well why not waste everyone else?

116 – Drowning Demons: A Conversation with Paranormal Filmmaker Ben Wydeven

I first met filmmaker Ben Wydeven at the Madison Horror Film Festival when we were discussing the haunted Rogers Theatre in Wausau. Sunspot had played there the weekend before and had heard some haunted stories, but Ben had shot his entire movie in the theater while it was being remodeled. I knew I had to pick up a copy of The Medium

We recorded a Sunspot Road Mania episode at the Rogers Theatre (it was called the Fill-Mor then) where we had some weird stuff happen to us as well and the bar staff shared some of their ghost stories with us…

That Madison Horror Film Festival was also the first time that Wendy did the Thriller dance live and we’ve gota  video of that as well!

We reconnected with Ben  Wydeven earlier this year when we saw him at our live podcast event at the Old Baraboo Inn and he was working on a documentary about the bar, which has dozens of ghost tales. My sister, Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts is featured in the documentary as well, so she joined us for this episode and our conversation with Ben. She had her own paranormal experience that night of the live podcast and finally comes clean with it. That night was also Wendy’s first official ghost hunt and we had our own technical issues with our digital recorder not playing and finally comes clean with it. Our lively discussion covers everything from the movies and TV shows that influenced him (spoiler alert: he’s a big X-Files fan and we get into some heavy nerdery on that) to his own paranormal experiences and the logistics behind what it takes to film in a cemetery.

Ben Wydeven has created his own fictional paranormal film series called The Raven James Chronicles about an alcoholic psychic medium who is cursed/blessed with the ability to see dead people. He recently released a novel called Drowning Demons and the Raven James films are set in the same universe and are prequels to the story. The fifth in those series of films, Mourning In The Cemetery, is being released this Saturday November 5th. And where more perfect than the Old Baraboo Inn itself for the screening?

This week when we were working on the song for the podcast, we decided to combine forces with something else the band was working on, which was an ad needed a replacement track for “What About Love” by Heart. So, this week we took the theme of some of the loneliness that Raven James feels and also some of the longing that his bartender partner Benny Cavoto feels for his deceased father and channeled that energy into this week’s track, “Who Needs Love”. Think about it like Sunspot dressed up musically as Heart for this Halloween!

And even better, we’ve got two versions of the track from this week. One version where Wendy’s belting it out and another one with Mike singing, so we’ve got his and hers versions (Trick or Treat!)

Here’s Wendy singing this week’s track:

Here’s Mike singing the track:

Feeling alone
Hoping for a shot,
And my dreams
are all that I’ve got

The signs that I’m throwing
Well, they just ain’t going through

You’re a mystery, always in the shadows,
You never gave me, the chance to show

the beauty you’ll find
when you decide to open your heart

But you gotta ask right from the start

Who wants love?
Who wants someone to hold them tight?
Who wants love?
Someone to be there through the night,
Who wants love?
And I’m gonna give it to you,
to make this dream come true.

Who wants love?
Who wants someone to hold them tight?
Who wants love?
Someone to be there through the night,
Who wants love?

And I’m gonna give it to you.

115 – Deadly Candy: Legends and History of Halloween

Since it’s our favorite time of year, we thought we’d spend an episode talking about the history of Halloween, our favorite Halloween legends, Halloween costumes, and share some personal Halloween stories.

wendy2
Speak of the Devil… Sunspot’s 2000 Halloween costume was positively “horny” nyuk nyuk nyuk
Halloween 2000 Ben
Have no fear, friends, that’s not a real cobweb!
And for Halloween that year, I went as a guy with two chins!
And for Halloween that year, Mike went as a guy with two chins!

From the ancient Celts of the British Isles  and theirAutumn Samhain festival which they believed was the time where the veil between the worlds of this life and the next was super thin to the origin of the world Halloween (think All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Souls’ Day!), we cover all you need to know about everyone’s favorite dressing up holiday (and how that holiday used to be on Thanksgiving instead!)

Scottish Sunspot on Halloween 2000!
Scottish Sunspot on Halloween 2000!

We’ve gone as a lot of group costumes for Halloween and talk about some of the best costumes we’ve seen at the various shows we’ve played to celebrate the holiday. The Sunspot Witch Project, which was our Halloween costume in 2001 was a fun one because all we had to do was recycle our flannels that were left in our closets from living int the mid-1990s. Just add a hat like Doug or Bob McKenzie and instant Halloween costume, ya hosers!

strange brew
Looking’ good in your toques, eh!

mike1 sunspot2 wendy1

Of course we have to delve into the urban legends of Halloween, including the truth behind the needles and pins in candy rumors that traumatized our trick or treating as youths as well as the “dead person mistaken for a Halloween decoration” (spoiler alert: both legends have a real basis in fact!)

Have you seen this boy? Halloween 2004.
Have you seen this boy? Halloween 2004. Wow, and if Mike’s face was any rounder he could have gone as the Pillsbury Terminator!

Mike shares a real-life ghost story and adventure from an abandoned supposedly haunted hotel in Mukwonago, Wisconsin called Rainbow Springs and everyone discusses their favorite Halloween-related shows, from The Great Pumpkin to the unexpectedly terrifying Garfield Halloween Adventure.

Super Sunspot Bros and The Princess!
Super Sunspot Bros and The Princess!

So, sit back and enjoy the episode if you wanna learn all about the history of Halloween and how it became the awesome holiday we celebrate today.

And last but not least, here’s Wendy and Mike as a coupla rockin’ zombies from The Raven’s Ball at this year’s Milwaukee Paranormal Conference.

For this week’s track, we took inspiration from the usual cable TV network Halloween programming, which loves to run specials about Satanism. Satanists embrace Halloween as a time when the rest of the world explores its own darkness and it’s their biggest holiday (besides a Satanist’s birthday!) One of the most talked about Satanic magic spells is the Destruction Ritual, a meditation based on cursing an enemy. It’s their most dangerous rite, and we thought it would make the perfect subject for a song. Take a listen to “Destruction Ritual”.

Hail Satan!
Hail Satan!

Is such a silly cliche.

Vengeance is mine!
Vengeance is mine!
And you can have it anyway.

Let’s play the game where you were never born.
I’d love to watch your demise.
Through these very eyes,
on fire with spite and scorn.

Hail Satan!
Hail Satan!

It just sounds stupid when you say,

Vengeance is mine!
Vengeance is mine!

Cause all this hate will rot your brain.

Let’s play the game where you were never born.
I’d love to watch your demise.
Through these very eyes,
on fire with spite and scorn.

Mind your thoughts and where they tread,
Be careful where you leave your head,
These words are better left unsaid,
Be careful where you leave your head.

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?

 

 

113 – Beware of Bozo: The Great Phantom Clown Panic of 2016

2016. Just saying the year feels like we’re living in the future. We’re well past Back To The Future II now and we’re only 3 years away from Blade Runner territory. But he sad truth is that there’s no jetpacks, our Artificial Intelligence autocorrects our communication into incoherence, and the U.S. Presidential Election is straight out of a 90s dystopian satire.

We have more access to information than ever before in history. In fact, most people in our country carry the sum total of human knowledge in their pocket. Any fact is at our fingertips and any answer at our beck and call. So it just goes without saying that most people no longer panic about urban legends because they all get neatly debunked when we do a quick check of snopes.com… Wait. Did you say clowns are trying to lure children into the woods?! OH MY GOD. SAVE THE CHILDREN.

Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise the Clown in the 1990 television adaptation of Stephen King’s IT has set the gold standard for scary clowns for a generation. While Killer Klowns From Outer Space might have been  a fun and campy horror movie and Blood Harvest starred Tiny Tim and Wisconsin State Lottery beauty Lori Minnetti (my and Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts‘ parents have a strange connection to both of them!), when people think of terrifying clowns in the late 20th Century, it’s Tim Curry’s Pennywise that they’re really thinking of. And they should, he’s scary as Hell and IT was shown on free over-the-air TV back when tens of millions of people still regularly watched scripted dramas instead of just dancing and singing competitions.

Look, I know there might have been a time when clowns weren’t terrifying. That time is over. There’s a real psychological term for the fear of clowns called “coulrophobia”. This year, through the magic of the Internet and in our never-quenched desire to save our children, we’re being inundated with tales of strange and sinister clowns lurking in our cities. It’s gone from a funny story that’s shared among friends on social media networks (and we covered it first in our paranormal newsletter!) to a full-blown worldwide phantom clown panic. Indeed, what started out this summer as a stunt in Green Bay, WI (for a film called Gags The Clown, our friend Cactus Joe interviews the director in this episode as well) has spread all across the country.

This latest era of clown scares starts in 2013 in Northampton in the United Kingdom. And while that clown isn’t even doing anything scary in particular, just the fact that someone is out there in the street dressed as a clown and waving to people spooked the locals. The innocuous nature of his performance is what freaked people out, in fact The Huffington Post headline was “Northampton Clown Terrorizes English Town Just By Standing Around“.

northampton clown
‘Ello, chaps! I’m the Northanmpton Clown! Bloody scary, eh?

Then in November of 2015, in Waukesha, Wisconsin (right by my hometown and the location of a new awesome ghost tour that I wrote and Wendy guides!), a local teenager  had a similar chilling effect on the populace. Once again, this clown isn’t doing anything, just hanging around and it’s disturbing people.

waukesha clown
The Weird Clown of Waukesha

Fast forward to 2016 and Gags the Green Bay Clown starts terrorizing the frozen tundra of Titletown. This summer, the story goes viral and no longer are these formerly jocular characters just occupying our nation’s street corners, they’re now in the schoolyards.

Gags The Green Bay Clown
I’m Gags The Green Bay Clown. I love cheese, the Packers, and murder!

Clown sightings in South Carolina in August had children claiming that clowns were trying to lure them into the woods with money. You mess with children and people freak out, and boy have they ever. You know how rumors spread through a junior high school population? That’s social media.

Schools have been locked down in Illinois, Tennessee, Maryland, Ohio, New York, and Florida. And it’s not even real clown sightings that are causing this, it’s just clown-based social media threats. It’s children reporting clown sightings and adults freaking out over it. Our schools have become zero-tolerance zones for clowns and it’s all because children are making up stories, Salem-style.

john wayne gacy clown
John Wayne Gacy in his favorite getup

This isn’t America’s first great clown panic though. In April of 1981, just over a year after notorious Chicagoland serial murderer and real-life killer clown John Wayne Gacy was sentenced to death for sexually assaulting and murdering thirty-three boys and young men, reports of mysterious clowns bothering children starting popping up around Boston area schools.

In May of that year, the media picked those reports of clowns up and the police of nearby Brookline, MA even issued a warning after learning of two “clown men” looking to lure children into their white van with candy. A little later that year, in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, a “phantom” was seen by dozens of teenagers, and even a police officer, John Pepper, talked about seeing “a huge person with a white-painted face”.

But here’s the thing, besides the policeman seeing the clowns in Mineral Point, none of the other clowns were ever really seen by the police. Or even a reputable adult.

In fact, cryptozoology demigod, Loren Coleman (who we’re all going to meet and party with at the 2016 Milwaukee Paranormal Conference coined the phrase, “Phantom Clown” in his book, Mysterious America. They were phantoms because there were never any arrests made for these phantom clowns actually breaking the law, or even existing outside of elementary school imaginations, perhaps inspired by images of Gacy in the evening news broadcasts that their parents watched.

But for the people who think it might be fun to dress up and join in on the phantom clown prank, well you better think again. A couple in Menasha, Wisconsin, were just arrested for child neglect for leaving their four year old at home while they went on out to scare the local populace. Indeed, this time around people aren’t taking the clown sightings lying down, in fact at Penn State University, reports of creepy clowns inspired the students to head into the streets to seek them out for a clown beatdown.

That’s the inspiration behind this week’s Sunspot song. It’s not duck season, it’s not wabbit season, it’s “Clown Season“!

Lollipop eyes,
and a painted face
hide a taste for homicide.
and It’s no surprise,
every place we look
we find a crime.

Danger in every corner,
We’ve got murder on our mind.
you might play the fool, but if you come by a school
we will eat Bozo alive.

It’s no joke,
I won’t go,
to the place
where we all float.

Turn your frown upside down
and send in the clowns,
we’re gonna burn this big top down.

You ain’t funny,
you ain’t cute,
This time
the joke’s on you,

We don’t need a reason,
for hunting season,
A Krusty krackdown,
we’re coming for the clowns.

Hey you with the nose,
that’s as far as you go,
What’s with those big shoes?
Stay away from our youth
cuz we know the truth.
It must be real, it’s on the news.

Danger in every corner,
We don’t care if it’s all in fun,
Come by a kid, you’ll be sorry you did,
The mob is out for blood.

It’s no joke,
I won’t go,
to the place
where we all float.

Turn your frown upside down
send in the clowns,
we’re gonna burn this big top down.

You ain’t funny,
you ain’t cute,
This time
the joke’s on you,

We don’t need a good reason,
now it’s hunting season,
A Krusty krackdown,
we’re coming for the clowns.

Special thanks to our good friend (and a fellow musician!) Cactus Joe for interviewing Adam Krause about Gags the Clown!

P.S. We recorded this podcast on Scott Bakula’s birthday. Hope it was a great one, Scott!

112 – Serial Killers: Amanda Howard and a Fascination With Evil

[ Credit to Djbarrett Photographer and Graphic Artist for photo of Amanda Howard in this episode’s header image ]

Remember the first time you saw The Silence of The Lambs? I do. I was fourteen years old and I went to go see the movie with my dad at the local budget theater in Milwaukee in June of 1991. I remember the day well because I’d  just picked up the latest issue of my favorite guitar magazine because I wanted to learn how to play “Bohemian Rhapsody”. But I also remember it because that movie blew my frickin’ mind. It was behind only Ghostbusters and Total Recall (and both films we discussed this summer on the podcast, funny enough) in my mind as what I thought were the greatest movies of all time.

Guitar for the Practicing Musician July 1991
Sunspot still plays “Seek and Destroy” live, originally learned from this magazine! All bass lines included? That’s why it was my favorite!
But it wasn’t just me who loved it. Silence of the Lambs nabbed the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1991 in addition to Best Acting trophies for both Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter (Best Actor for merely sixteen minutes of screen time!) and Jodie Foster. It is a tour de force of suspense and the measure to which all other serial killer movies are based.

And there were lots of movies of which to compare it to. Serial killers became the villain of the decade. Even The X-Files has Silence of the Lambs in its DNA. Fox Mulder was originally a serial killer profiler that was allowed to pursue his weird research on the X-Files because he was such an ace profiler. That’s right, in the 90s, being a serial killer profiler was a viable employment goal.

serial killers image
Here let me save you some profiling time. Single. White. Male. Usually have been picked up for a sex crime in the past.
From Scream to Kiss The Girls, Se7en to Copycat (which was Sigourney Weaver taking on the very evil Harry Connick Jr.), it seemed like serial killers were everywhere. One of the most awkward moments in watching a film in Milwaukee as a young man was hearing Wesley Snipes psycho character in Demolition Man say “Jeffrey Dahmer? I love that guy!” Audiences on the coast might have laughed, but definitely not in Brewtown.

There was even a reaction to all these serial killers as villains with the switcheroo of them becoming the protagonist instead. While some works, like Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho are meant to be completely satirical, others like Dexter have the audience rooting for a vigilante murderer like he’s Batman. Indeed, they made a special action figure out of his “Dark Defender” alter ego.

dexter dark defender
Hey kids, Merry Murderin’ Christmas!
But it wasn’t just a 90s thing, we’ve always been fascinated with serial killers, from H.H. Holmes (Chicago’s Devil In The White City) who was heavily covered in the Hearst newspapers of the 1890s to Uncle Charlie in the 1943 Alfred Hitchcock classic, Shadow of a Doubt. But it was back in the 90s, that an Australian writer by the name of Amanda Howard began compiling stories about serial killers on the web into a sort of online encyclopedia.

Amanda Howard
True crime author and this episode’s guest, Amanda Howard
Amanda’s fascination with these murderous personalities eventually led to a career as a successful true crime novelist where she goes in depth on the stories behind these psychos, from their motivations to the impact that it has on their often completely innocent families.

We were lucky that Amanda was willing to join us at 5am Sydney time for the interview to share her expert knowledge on the history of serial killers and provide an insight into the reasons that as a culture, for some reason, we just can’t get enough of serial killers. One of the most interesting cases that she shares with us is Fred and Rose West, a British couple who many in the US are unfamiliar with, and their grotesque story shocked me.

Amanda has been a pen pal of some of your favorite crazies, from Family Man Charles Manson to Night Stalker Richard Ramirez and her exhaustive research has given her a unique perspective into why these people fascinate us, and she even makes some paranormal connections as well!

More information about Amanda Howard and her books can be found at her website, amandahoward.com.au. If true crime isn’t your thing, she’s also written the Ritual series of fiction books about an investigator named Kate Reilly who probes serial killers in a city called Somerset, which if the books are any indication, is the most dangerous place in Australia!

For this week’s Sunspot song, we pulled out our track “Cannibal” from The Slingshot Effect. After all, on a week where we’re talking about serial killers and Silence of the Lambs, we just had to include our song that quotes one of Hannibal Lecter’s most famous lines.

You’re such a tease,
You always leave me wanting more,
And you could turn a guy like Gandhi into a carnivore.
Cuz you look like you’ve got great taste, you’re good enough to eat.
Maybe with a nice Chianti and some fava beans.

I’ve got a hunger that can’t be sated normally,
Here’s your invitation to my Donner Party…

I want you more than just inside of me,
And I’ll take that super-sized.
I want to be studied by Margaret Mead,
and I’ll bake you right into a pie,
This cannibal will eat you alive.

I’m into lust not into vengeance, I’m no Andronicus,
Carnality not hubris, I’m no Tantalus.
When I get turned on, I’m a barbarian,
My tastes decidedly non-vegetarian.

You always satisfy my craving that’s so big,
I get hungry for a hunk of the long pig.

I want you more than just inside of me,
And I’ll take that super-sized.
I want to be studied by Margaret Mead,
and I’ll bake you right into a pie,
This cannibal will eat you alive.

Every time I see you, I just can’t touch you enough.
Every time I’m with you, I just can’t taste you enough.
I can’t confuse, I can’t control you,
I can’t abuse you, I can’t cajole you,
I can’t surprise you and I can’t imbibe you, monopolize you, osmosicize you,
I just can’t make you enough a part of me.

I’ve got a hunger that can’t be sated normally,
Here’s your invitation to my Donner Party…

I want you more than just inside of me,
And I’ll take that super-sized.
I want to be studied by Margaret Mead,
and I’ll bake you right into a pie,
I want you more than just inside of me,
And I’ll take that super-sized.
Your sweet taste is the key to my recipe,
and I’ll bake you right into a pie,
This cannibal will eat you alive.

111 – Professional Weirdos: The Paranormal Obsession of Greg and Dana Newkirk

This week we interview the paranormal power couple Greg and Dana Newkirk, self-named professional weirdos who together write and edit one of the best places to find strange news on the Internet, Week In Weird!

Growing up in Canada, Dana Matthews discovered her obsession with ghost hunting while in high school and quickly shot to fame with her own TV  show on the SPACE Channel, The Girly Ghosthunters.

Greg had a parallel upbringing in Pennsylvania and in the age of the Internet, actually communicated with his future wife, Dana, about ghost hunting and well, the beginnings of their relationship are a little rocky… Greg and Dana tell the unbelievably true story of how they got got together in this interview along with discussing the paranormal experiences that made them believers.

 

This week’s song, inspired by Greg’s “quest of apology” to Dana, is entitled Apology Tour:

Well, I’m a recovering angry young man
Had more fury than you need for just one lifespan,
I shook my fist at the world with my undies in a bunch,
I had the kind of face that people love to punch.
I’m not too proud of where I been
And now I’ve gotta atone for my sin.

So I’m saying sorry
and forgive me.
I’m not the person that I was before.
I’m saying sorry,
I’ll get on my knees,
You’re the next stop on my apology tour

Go ahead and slam the door,
And take your best shot ,
I probably deserve more,
I deserve all you got.
I used to think I was hardcore,
Definitely not,
I was at war with the world, but I didn’t know squat.
I thought the world owed me a place,
An entitled little punk Napoleon case
I’m not too proud of where I been
So now I’ve gotta atone for my si n

So I’m saying sorry
and forgive me.
I’m not the person that I was before.
I’m saying sorry,
I’ll get on my knees,
You’re the next stop on my apology tour.

So I’m saying sorry
and forgive me.
I’m not the person that I was before.
I’m saying sorry,
I’ll get on my knees,
You’re the next stop on my apology,
curing my psychology,
don’t stomp on my apology tour.

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

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