134 – Game Over, Man: Remembering Bill Paxton

When  Bill Paxton passed away on February 26th, 2017 at the way too young age of 61, we just knew we had to talk about him. Sure, the TV news might talk about his HBO show, Big Love or when he headlined the storm chaser classic, Twister,  but he was a huge presence in so many fantastic science fiction and horror movies. His legacy of performances adding color and fun to huge blockbusters and adding gravitas and real character to B-movies meant that I’d never turn the channel when he was on the screen.

For this episode, Wendy Lynn and I are joined by our friend, author and screenwriter, Mark O’Connell, as well as the always effervescent Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts.

For those of us growing up in the early 80s, we knew him before we probably even realized it. He directed and starred in the video for “Fish Heads” which was a classic from the experimental film days of Saturday Night Live (and if you have “Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads” stuck in your head right now, you’re welcome.)

He was a special kind of jerk in Weird Science, he gets offed by The Terminator at the Griffith Park Observatory in the beginning of that film, and he’s a highlight of arguably the greatest vampire film since Murnau’s Nosferatu, Kathryn Bigelow’s 1987 Near Dark. His most famous role for many people, though, is undoubtedly Aliens‘ ill-fated hysterical Colonial Marine William Hudson with the motormouth and negative attitude.

All these things are what you’re going to find in other remembrances of the actor, from the movie geek sites to the entertainment magazines. For our episode, we wanted to talk with Mark O’Connell, who had a movie script that Bill was aiming to direct in the late 90s.

Mark’s script was called Doug and Dave, and it was based on the true story of two older British guys who claimed to be behind the United Kingdom’s Crop Circle phenomena. They said that it was all a hoax that they would do in the middle of the night after knocking back a few pints at the local. It was shortly after that they were denounced as hoaxers themselves and made up the story for the ten thousand pound fee they got from a magazine for telling the story. Paxton loved Mark’s script and wanted to direct it as his first feature film.

Unfortunately, the producer couldn’t get the funds together for the movie, so eventually Paxton went on to direct the thriller Frailty, a dark, moody, and often disturbing film about a Texas family that “murders” demons that look just like regular people.

A few years later, Mark gets a call out of the blue and Bill Paxton tried again to get the film off the ground. While the movie never happened, Mark tells a personal story of working with the actor and the energy, attitude, and the excitement of trying to move a film out of “Development Hell” to a movie theater near you.

Then Allison remembers her own Bill Paxton story of how she visited the Hotel Chequamegon in Ashland, Wisconsin because it was reportedly haunted. Ashland is a tiny tourist town in Northern Wisconsin and it’s where Sam Raimi (the man that gave us Evil Dead as well as two great Spider-Man films) took his cast and crew to make the film-noir A Simple Plan in the late 90s.

Well, it starred Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton and they stayed at the Hotel Chequamegon during the filming. According to the staff, both actors told the front desk that they had scene a mysterious woman in Victorian clothing roaming the halls and vanishing and had asked for their rooms to be moved.

So, not only do we get a personal tale of working with Bill Paxton, but we find out that he had his own paranormal experience (and in Wisconsin, no less!)

As an actor, he could elevate any scene he was in, he was a huge reason why Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started getting good in the middle of its first season, and he’s the only other actor besides Lance Henriksen that’s been killed by a Terminator, Alien, and Predator! From the Jimmy Buffett-eqsue “Coconut Pete” in the hilarious slasher sendup Club Dread to the astronaut Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (the role that he made it sound to Mark that he wanted to be remembered for), he was a big part of what made so many of our favorite science fiction and horror movies fun.

bill paxton power loader aliens ghost story

For this week’s song, we took some inspiration from Aliens, because when you’re in a “Power Loader” you feel invincible!

1 2 3 shots in,
I’m through the roof,
invincible and I’m 200 proof.
Spoiling for someone to take me on,
My blood is fire,
I’m in the Octagon.

I’m in a Power Loader,
I’m indestructible now,
Like in a Power Loader,
You can’t push me around.

Every look’s a jab,
and every stare a punch,
an invitation to some fisticuffs
Just say the word, and let’s go to the mat,
Cry for mama and say Game Over Man

I’m in a Power Loader,
I’m indestructible now,
Like in a Power Loader,
You can’t push me around.

You can ride the white line
all the way to fight time
Cuz you know for a black eye,
is better than a flatline.

I’m gonna nuke you from orbit
I want you to hit me as hard you can
I’ve got the code for god mode
tonight I’m a champion.

I’m in a Power Loader,
I’m indestructible now,
Like in a Power Loader,
You can’t push me around.

I’m in a Power Loader,
I’m indestructible now,
Like in a Power Loader,
You can’t push me around.

133 – Popobawa: Dr. Martin Walsh and The Idea Virus

Martin Walsh is a social anthropologist with a PhD from the University of Cambridge.  He has extensive field experience in East Africa including the Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar.

popobawa dr. martin walsh
Look at the red star to find Zanzibar

We first heard about Dr. Walsh in the Gray Brothers’ documentary about sleep paralysis, The Nightmare, (check out our interview here!) where he was the liaison between the people of Zanzibar and the filmmakers. They were exploring the mystery of Popobawa (literally translated to English as “bat-wing”), an evil shapeshifting spirit who would visit people in the night and poke them where the Sun don’t shine.

Of course, we’re being flippant, but that’s part of it. The very intimate nature of the violation is one of the reasons of the legend was so scary, funny, and fascinating to the Tanzanian people. As Dr. Walsh describes it, there was a period in 1995 where that’s all the people talked about, a national obsession.

popobawa dr. martin walsh
An artist’s rendition of Popobawa, often portrayed as a one-eyed demon with bat wings, in the real legend, it was a shapeshifter and appeared in many different forms.

Much like the Clown Hysteria hit in 2016 in the United States and it spread through the news and social media, stories of Popobawa’s nocturnal visits spread through word of mouth where people would tell personal stories of waking up paralyzed and seeing a terrifying shapeshifter pressing on their chest. In fact, the stories very often resemble alien abduction tales. In one of the wildest tales that Martin talks about in the interview, there’s a spinning dog with a police siren on its head. And of course, accompanied by a fetid stink (shades of Joshua Cutchin’s Brimstone Deceit?)

popbawa martin walsh the grey brothers
Dr. Martin Walsh with The Gray Brothers filiming “The Nightmare”

But this wasn’t just harmless sleep paralysis, the panic that spread through the community caused several deaths. Since Popobawa could appear as anyone, that means that anyone acting strangely or just a little unusual could be the evil spirit in human form. Some poor mentally ill folks ended up being mistaken for Popobawa and were killed by the mob.

Dr. Walsh wrote an academic paper about this phenomenon shortly after it all went down, you can even read it online (and I recommend it, it’s not stuffy or difficult and gets into some real fascinating detail.) Click here to check out “Killing Popobawa: collective panic and violence in Zanzibar”

popobawa dr. martin walsh
Dr. Martin Walsh

Dr. Walsh goes into several reasons as to why this idea virus might have spread so quickly and such a ridiculous legend became so popular in our discussion, but one of the things that he brought up really made me think about our interview with Jack Hunter, another British student of Anthropology.

One of the things Martin believes is important to the story is that the panic took place during the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, and that’s a month where everyone is fasting, they’re not sleeping as much, they’re praying more, etc… they’re engaging in rituals. One of the things that Jack is studying is how people across the world have used rituals to facilitate paranormal experiences.

popobawa dr. martin walsh
Dr. Martin Walsh on location in Tanzania

The inhabitants of Zanzibar were doing exactly that when Popobawa came for a visit. Whether or not people were really visited by a single-eyed bat demon with a penchant for you know what, Martin mentions that they could very well have been setting themselves up for being more likely to have a sleep paralysis experience.  Especially once the first one happens and people start hearing about it and you might manifest it in your own bed.

Martin, of course, is featured in The Nightmare (which you can watch above) but he also has some authors he can recommend if you’re interested in learning more about this topic:

And don’t forget that Dr. Walsh has lots of work available online where you can learn more about Popobawa and Tanzania!

Martin also works with Oxfam, an organization dedicated to poverty eradication, health, and human rights in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world. You can find more about their mission and his work right here.

This week’s song was inspired by a couple of the things Martin said in the interview. Number one, he talked about the “twilight zone” between waking and dreaming. Number two, the widespread panic that spread throughout his village one night that was probably started  by his night watchman who got scared and ran away. Nothing actually happened but the whole village was terrified. Those two things put together really reminded me of the classic Twilight Zone episode, “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”.

There’s a great line at the end of the episode where two aliens are talking to each other discussing how their simple mindgame of turning electricity on and off selectively down the street has made the formerly friendly neighbors turn on each other. ”

“They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find,” one of the aliens says, “and it’s themselves.” And in the end, he chillingly adds, “The world is full of Maple Streets.” The Popobawa panic was one of those instances. This song is titled after its inspiration, “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”.
What do we do
the switches won’t respond
point our fingers to
a 5th column from the vast beyond
who’s hiding what
another wild theory
Who can you trust
when we’re yelling in the streets
and behind every picket fence
you’ll find your own worst enemy.
the monsters are due on Maple Street.
A simple pattern
It’s always the same
When the unknown appears
We find someone to blame
A trigger in plain sight
Agitates the hive
It’s just a matter of time and
We’ll eat each other alive
What are you guilty of?
What are you waiting for?
Who’s the little green man
inside a meteor?
and behind every picket fence
you’ll find your own worst enemy.
the monsters are due on Maple Street.
Inside every closed door,
there lies a new conspiracy
the monsters are due on Maple Street.
And our world is full of Maple Streets.

132 – Paranthropology: An Interview with Jack Hunter

From Near-Death Experiences to spirit possession, Jack Hunter has been finding the commonalities of paranormal experiences from cultures all over the world. As a PhD candidate at the University of Bristol in Anthropology, Jack has devoted his academic and professional life to understanding how different peoples across the planet use ritual, ceremony, to alter their states of consciousness to interpret the world and their place in it.

jack hunter paranthropology
Fancy a pint with British Jesus?

Jack Hunter’s journal, Paranthropology has been publishing since 2010  and it’s a free online academic journal that features articles written by researchers  interested in exploring the paranormal through  a social science lens.

In this interview where Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts once again joins us, we discuss the importance of ritual in many societies, how we’re missing out on a lot of those rituals and ceremonies in modern Western Civilization, and how those rituals can help induce psychic and paranormal experiences (and also, how psychedelic substances from Magic Mushrooms to LSD to Ayahuasca can accelerate or shortcut the process.)

Jack even takes us through a modern psychic medium experience that he wrote about for his original dissertation and how the present-day Spiritualist experience is alike to the classic Victorian and Edwardian seances that we envision from TV and movies.

jack hunter paraanthropology
Jack Hunter doing the academic thing and giving a presentation!

A big concepts of this episode is about feeling connected to a place. In Wales where Jack lives, he talks about the folk tales of a dragon in every valley or just how so much of the small towns have so much history and folklore. For example, a modern geologist will talk about a rock formation that was left by a glacier,  the folk tale might be that giants left the rocks there. They’re two different ways of trying to understand why your environment is the way it is, and while they’re very different explanations, they’re also two different ways of reaching a truth that you feel comfortable with.

Jack has edited and written several books on the subject as well, and with titles like The Paranormal: Why People Believe in Spirits, Gods, and Magic and Talking With The Spirits, and of course, Paranthropology: Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal, if you enjoy the interview, you’re going to want to check those books out to learn more.

One of the intriguing concepts that Jack discusses in this episode is “Ontological Flooding” which is the concept that when you are exploring a phenomena or even just your relationship to your environment around you, to embrace all possibilities. Consider the materialist aspect (the physicality of it), the spiritual aspect (how it affects you emotionally), the mythic aspect (what is the story of the place you’re at) , and how those things all contribute to understanding it.

Ontology is the “study of being” and ontological flooding is the idea that you will let all the information in and not judging the information as “crazy” or “magical thinking” but synthesizing all of it to find a way of living that excites you and a way of finding and accepting your place in not only the ecological system, but of the story, of a big world. This episode’s Sunspot song  is called “The Flood”.

A subtle change and your head spins
flip of the switch, it all makes sense
an arrogance you can pretend,
To reduce it to just elements.

Synapses fire
with chemistry
But we can break up
to share far more
Than flesh and blood
A new way of knowing
Here comes the flood

When you’re in the space that’s in between
You can redefine what you believe
No time to waste
no place to judge
Better get ready for the flood.

Look for who’s pulling your strings,
Are you just defined by your things?
Embrace what this knowledge brings,
And this is where the balance swings.

Synapses fire
with chemistry
But we can break up
to share far more
Than flesh and blood
New way of knowing
Here comes the flood

When you’re in the space that’s in between
You can redefine what you believe
No time to waste
No place to judge
Better get ready for the flood.
Better get ready for the flood.

131 – Mother Earth Mysticism: Past Lives and Shamanic Healing with Rachel Mann

Rachel Mann took a long and winding course to finding her calling as a healer and spiritual teacher.  Originally studying the Russian language and Slavic folklore and preparing for an academic career, she switched paths as the Cold War ended in the early 90s and university positions teaching Russian dried up.

rachel mann
Rachel giving somebody the Mother Earth Mystic Once-over!

While working through her own issues,  Rachel was getting traditional “talk therapy” as well as getting “energy work” done. But it was during one of those sessions where Rachel discovered her own history as a warrior monk in Medieval France and relived his dying moments in battle. The way she describes the experience is simila to Philip K. Dick’s  Exegesis and the strange connection he felt with the prophet Elijah and John The Baptist. But it’s interesting because it’s the idea that your in their head and they’re in your head, even though you’re separated by centuries. Rachel could feel his pain, his love, his hopes, and his faith. Meanwhile, he was poking around in her brain as well.

And that experience started leading her to where she is today, as a teacher of what she calls The Great Medicine Wheel of Mother Earth Mysticism, where she takes bits and pieces of the different spiritual traditions that she’s studied from Buddhism to the customs of the indigenous people of the Andes Mountains to the Cherokee to modern psychological techniques like psychodrama.

A Medicine Wheel in action!

Rachel’s work is a blend of the Ancient and the Modern and she teaches the connectedness of all things, living or otherwise. You can find more info about her on her site, Rachel Mann PhD, you can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Her vulnerability and fearlessness in discussing the  challenges in her own life is what inspired this week’s Sunspot demo. We strive to be perfect and we often ridicule the sick as if somehow they’re “responsible” for their condition. That striving, that criticism, often just leads to even more suffering. Admitting that there’s something wrong and that it’s okay there’s something wrong is usually the first step in learning how to fix it. The track is called “To Accept Is Not Defeat”.

Scrape the skin ’til you see blood
Rub the flesh until its sore
Bang your head against the wall til your brains fall on the floor.
Cry til your eyes are red
til you find a moment of clarity
That this striving beyond surviving just more futility.
And the more that I struggle
the more I seem to ache,
 And the more that I struggle
the more I seem to break.
I surrender.
I throw myself before your feet.
I’ve tested every limit,
To accept is not defeat.
The tighter that you grip,
The looser that you hold,
And all that you have lost, you’ll find when you let go.
For the more that I struggle
the more I seem to ache,
For the more that I struggle
the more I seem to break.
I surrender.
I throw myself before your feet.
I’ve tested every limit,
To accept is not defeat.
I surrender.
I throw myself before your feet.
I’ve tested every limit,
To accept is not defeat.

130 – Mrs. Magic: Reweaving Reality with Maureen St. Germain

Maureen St. Germain is the author of books like Be A Genie, Reweaving the Fabric of Your Reality, and Waking Up in 5D and calls herself a “Practical Mystic”. And with a title like that and a nickname like “Mrs. Magic”, Maureen is all about finding and embracing the spiritual aspects in your own life. While the language and symbolism might be cosmic, the results are down to Earth. Mrs. Magic helps people access their fantastic sides while helping them achieve their goals, manifest love and happiness, and just get a little peace of mind every once in awhile.

maureen st germain mrs magic
Maureen meditating, it looks like she’s in a pyramid or something!

One of Maureen St. Germain’s quickest tips for helping to find magic in your own life quickly is not to eliminate negativity, which is difficult and almost always leads to more negative thoughts when you can’t just “get rid of” those offending thoughts in the first place (that’s the path that leads to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, trust me on that one.) But every time you have a negative thought, add two positive thoughts to it. 

For example, since we live in Wisconsin and it’s currently winter time, when you look outside, the first think you think is usually, “Man, this is snowy and cold and disgusting.” But why not add, “Yeah, but snowball fights are fun!” and “Winter keeps property values affordable here so that my quality of life is great!” Does that sound kind of silly? Why yes, yes it does.

But it helps reinforce positivity without making you feel guilty for thinking negative thoughts. We’re always going to have reactions to things no matter what, our brains are just gonna use the pathways that are the easiest and we’re hardwired for negativity. Ever wonder why your pets are so scared all the time? Because it helps keep them alive in the wilderness! But we’re not in the jungle anymore and oftentimes, our fear holds us back.

maureen st germain jump and the net will appear
No pressure!

One phrase we mention in the interview with Maureen St. Germain is “jump and the net will appear”and this might not be magic in the sense that we think of magic usually (like burning candles and eyes of newt or something) but more like how you reframe and align your thinking. And that’s about gaining access to your Higher Self.  Your Higher Self is your spiritual self that has access to the Akashic Records.

Akashic What Now? We talked a little about the Akashic Records in our interview with Garnet Schulhauser and his spirit guide Albert, but according to mid-Twentieth Century mystic Edgar Cayce, it’s the “Book of Life”, the universal supercomputer that has access to all the knowledge of the Universe across all Space and Time. If life was like Doctor Who (and you’re trying to tell me it’s not?!)the Time Lords had an archive of their history, knowledge, and of the memory of all of their species called The Matrix. The Akashic Records are kinda like that.

maureen st germain doctor who the matrix
The Doctor getting ready for a trip into the Time Lords’ Akashic Records, The Matrix

Okay, that’s getting into some heavy New  Age-y type stuff, but it’s not really different from learning how to trust your intuition, which has a demonstrable scientific basis. And learning how to “trust your gut” (or whatever you like to call it, your Higher Self, your spirit guide, your intuition, etc…) and how to listen to your body and your instinct is part of any kind of personal development, so the New Age style is just one of the ways that people are inspired to follow that path and it’s an essential part of everyone’s spiritual journey.

You can jump into Maureen’s class about the Higher Self right here and you can find her different variety of books, courses, and guided meditations on the Maureen St. Germain website. She’s got plenty of free meditations on YouTube so you can try it out, see what you think, and if you’re into it, learn more directly from Maureen.

Hey and here’s something sweet, the last book Maureen contributed to, The Realities of Creation: Moving Beyond the Limitations of Our Beliefs, features an intro from actress Dee Wallace who is one of our favorite  Scream Queens from The Hills Have Eyes to Rob Zombie’s Halloween re-imagining. She does spiritual healing now, what?! Yeah, I’d totally get a session too, but I think I’d probably just use my time to hear stories from the set of The Howling!

For the song this week, we decided to go with something a little obscure. There’s a psychological experiment that they run on animals called “The Mirror Test”, where they anesthetize the animal, put a mark on their face, and then show them their face in the mirror. Do the animals recognize themselves or do they think they’re seeing another creature of the same species? It’s a test of sentience, which is the capacity to feel, it’s a sense of self, of consciousness.
In the interview, we talk a lot about that feeling of needing to point your brain in the right direction. That’s what this song is about, because the character needs to act out his dreams in order to feel alive, in order to feel like he’s worthy of sentience. He wants to take action now so that he recognize and be proud of the life he’s lived, so he can pass “The Mirror Test”.
I’m gonna jump from Twenty Thousand Feet
Finally read all of War and Peace
Ride a wave right down to the beach,
and get pulled over racing a Trans Am.
I’ll keep my chin up like a champion,
Get my teeth knocked out in the Octagon
Try to paddle down the Amazon,
Then maybe I will finally understand
the meaning of I think therefore I am
I wanna go out as a man with no regret,
but I’m scared to death I must confess,
That in the end I won’t recognize myself
Alive with half a consciousness
That in the end I’ll fail The Mirror Test.
I’m gonna make love like I’m Bad Company,
Go out drinking like Charles Bukowski,
Karate kick like Bruce Lee
and then go bungee jump right off the Hoover Dam.
I’m gonna take on Everest,
Hold on 8 seconds like in the Wild West
I’ll even leave my home without American Express
And maybe I can finally be free
of all the fears that were just  paralyzing me
I wanna go out as a man with no regret,
but I’m scared to death I must confess,
That in the end I won’t recognize myself
I didn’t settle just for less,
Alive with half a consciousness
Well I ain’t gonna second guess
So in the end I don’t fail The Mirror Test.

129 – Scrutinizing The Sandman: Explore Your Dreams with J.M. DeBord

J.M. DeBord is the real human being behind the Reddit user, RadOwl,  who moderates that site’s Dreams forum. On that board he helps thousands of different users try and understand their dreams better. After being plagued by troublesome dreams in his own life, DeBord started taking dream interpretation seriously and discovered  it was a powerful form of self-reflection.

dreams radowl jm debora
This girl should probably be dreaming about where to shop for cooler sweaters. Yikes!

His 1-2-3 method of dream analysis is all about using the power of your subconscious mind to better understand your desires, fears, and motivations. And how to use that understanding to find out what really will make you happy.

  1. The first step is remembering your dreams.
  2. The second step is interpreting and analyzing your dreams.
  3. The third step is using those answers to confront fears, tackle problems and improve your own life.
dream interpretation jm debord morpheus radial
In The Arms of Morpheus by William Reynolds-Stephens

DeBord takes us through some of the most common dreams that people have, from zombie nightmares (which I had for years as a kid!) to teeth falling out to why we always end up back in friggin’ high school about to take a test that we’re completely unprepared for.  He also shares some of his favorite paranormal dreams!

guerin morpheus jm debora dreams
Guerin’s Famous Morpheus and Iris

DeBord wrote a book called Dreams 1-2-3: Remember, Interpret, and Live Your Dreams that goes into his process in detail and you can follow his dream interpretation blog at Dreams123.net. And of course, you can find him on the Reddit dream board as RadOwl, answering questions and helping people share and interpret their dreams.

The song this week felt appropriate because it’s one of the few songs that resulted directly from waking up from a dream. This was when I had a strange dream that I was hanging out with Ryan Reynolds for some reason and we had to defend ourselves against not only vampires, but samurai vampires, so they were twice as nasty and had katanas and we’re chasing us and it was really terrifying.

What could the dream mean? Number one, that I probably wanted to hang out with Ryan Reynolds while fighting otherworldly creatures because he’s funny and I like that. Number two, it continued on my old fear of zombies (the undead, these vampire samurai were coming out of the grave), but it gave the zombies a purpose. Samurai were honorable, they were warriors with a strict code, so this discipline and purpose made them much more formidable than just regular flesh-eating ghouls would be. Samurai were smart and skilled, they had a mission and a purpose, add vampiric powers to that and me and Ryan were in big trouble. They were an upgraded bad guy in my mind for the Twenty-First Century. It was such a strange juxtaposition in my brain that I had to immediately write about it when I woke up and thought it would be a fun song demo.

jm debord dreams interpretation kubla khan
What were they always digging for in their jackets?

Samuel Tyler Coleridge famously wrote Kubla Khan after waking up from an opium-laced dream and that work is still read today as an example of beautiful Romantic poetry. I’m not sure “Samurai Vampires” quite matches Coleridge, but it was fun to work on nonetheless.

Noble of purpose
righteous undead
Go forth and campaign
from their dirtbed
Transcend the wooden overcoat
with skin lukewarm
Called by a master
a duty to perform.
Tonight we justify the crime
And we’ll discharge our duties from on high
Tonight we justify the crime
Dispassionate and cold
never to grow old
Once we bare our teeth we have to bite
Honor and bloodshed,
for the revenant patrol.
a binding magic,
when a sword captures a soul.
Tonight we justify the crime
And we’ll discharge our duties from on high
Tonight we justify the crime
Dispassionate and cold
never to grow old
Once we bare our teeth we have to bite

128 – The Power of Christ Compels You: William Peter Blatty and The Exorcist

While 2017 hasn’t had the murder rate of 2016 yet, the year did start out with the loss of William Peter Blatty, the author of The Exorcist, with the news ominously coming out on Friday the 13th in January. While he did create one of the most famous works of horror of the Twentieth Century, he was much more than just a horror writer. His stories dealt with questions of faith, guilt, temptation, and how a just and loving God could allow so much evil in the world.

william peter blatty the exorcist
Man, 70s mustaches were the best!

He lived long enough to see the continuation of his story in the latest Exorcist TV Show, which is the best thing to happen to the franchise since The Exorcist III, (you can skip The Exorcist II entirely and the fourth one was so bad they had to shoot two different versions of it to try and salvage some of their investment. )

the exorcist william peter blatty new fox geena davis
The possession continues…

We’ve even opened up a couple of shows with this sweet George C. Scott monologue from The Exorcist III: Legion. But we’re not the only band that used it, it was particularly popular with ultra-heavy bands and sampled on albums from Beyond, Cryptopsy, Children of Bodom, Slayer, and even Guns n’ Roses have used it in live shows. Also, it was reportedly the film that Jeffery Dahmer was watching when his apartment was raided by the police. So, great job, Blatty!

But the reason that we still talk about The Exorcist today is not only because the shocks and the scares of watching a twelve-year old girl do unspeakable things with a crucifix. We’ve seen much more edgy horror movies (especially from France, those dudes are sick!)

One of the main reasons that demonic possession is so scary is because lots of people believe in the Devil. If you’re Catholic, and Blatty’s mother was deeply Roman Catholic and the author himself kept up with his faith (well, except for the whole getting divorced three times thing – but the first one was annulled, which is a very Catholic thing to do!) then rejecting the Devil is right in the Baptismal promises. You’ve got to talk about Satan if you’re a Catholic, his temptations lurk all around.

It was the research and the  inspiration that Blatty took from real life exorcisms and cases of demonic possession that made The Exorcist feel so real. Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts joins us in this episode to talk about those cases, famously one happened in St. Louis in 1949 (The Roland Doe Case) but it was also inspired by a lesser known  case involving  a Wisconsin Exorcist Priest-Hero named Theophilus Riesinger (who will also get his own episode sometime!) and an exorcism he performed in Iowa, described in the 1935 book Begone, Satan!

begone satan the exorcist
Click on the book to read the entire account of the possession free online

When he was 87, Blatty would write his own book on personal paranormal experiences called Finding Peter that chronicle is own faith and brushes with the supernatural, but he’ll always be best remembered for being a writer capable of terrifying audiences so shockingly that his work became a cultural touchstone, while keeping it sensitive and thoughtful enough with ideas of faith and hope, that it served a bigger purpose than merely gruesome entertainment.

One last FYI, if you hear that Father Malachi Martin was the inspiration for the Father Merrin character in The Exorcist, don’t buy it. It’s just marketing for the new documentary about Malachi Martin’s life (which looks cool in its own right and Malachi was a colorful character who we’ll have to dive into sometime), but here’s the truth in an article in the Los Angeles Times

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, however, dismissed Martin’s work as unbelievable. William Peter Blatty, who wrote the best-selling “The Exorcist” and the screenplay for the 1973 movie of the same name directed by William Friedkin, gave “Hostage” a scathing review in the Los Angeles Times, assailing its accuracy as well as Martin’s style. “I loathe this book,” Blatty wrote. “It gives possession a bad name.”

For this week’s song, we were looking for a track that appealed to the basest instincts of people, just like Pazuzu (or Captain Howdy) did in The Exorcist, so we selected a Sunspot song that deals with faith in its own way and sometimes that faith gets betrayed when people fall into temptation, anger, and resentment. And when that happens, the world can come “Crashing Down”.

Well, I guess I thought the fight,
would bring out the best in you,
because you always said my faith,
would see you through.
And as we sat there in the calm before the storm,
there were barbarians at the door… and I heard you,

Screaming for revolution,
I hear you scream for blood.
Screaming for retribution,
for another Flood.
And as I watched you scream your life away,
the world came crashing down.

And I know you hate the world,
for what it put you through.
But you struck against the ones,
that believed in you.
I always thought you were to strong to be afraid,
until I watched you run away… when I heard you,

Screaming for revolution,
I hear you scream for blood.
Screaming for retribution,
for another Flood.
And as I watched you scream your life away,
the world came crashing down.

As you sit there in your hole,
where your screams can’t break through,
well you’ve lost your freedom now,
look what your anger’s done for you.
There is no quarter, no exception to the rule,
there’s no one left to listen to you…
And you can cry wolf a thousand times and watch the rest of us survive.

Screaming for revolution,
I hear you scream for blood.
Screaming for retribution,
for another Flood.
And as I watched you scream your life away,
the world came crashing down.

127 – Historian Of The Strange: Robert Damon Schneck and The Bye Bye Man

The man who brought us the story of The Bye Bye Man, Robert Damon Schneck is a writer with a passion for finding the weirdest stories of American history. As a writer, he’s delivered articles on strange and unusual topics for Fortean Times (the paranormal gold standard!) and Fate magazine, as well as writing two incredibly well-researched books on the subject.

Robert Damon Schneck The Bye Bye Man
Historian of the Strange, Robert Damon Schneck

When we heard Robert tell the story of The Bye Bye Man on our way back from the Haunted America conference in Alton, Illinois last summer, we just knew we has to bring him on and for several reasons.

  1. The original story of The Bye Bye Man takes place in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, which is a suburb of our hometown, Madison.
  2. It’s college kids playing the Ouija Board, which is what we used to do when we attended the University of Wisconsin.
  3. There’s a part that takes place in Wausau, which is one of our favorite towns to perform in and we have lots of friends there.

So, it’s not every day that you get a true-life terrifying story that takes place in your area. And when we found out they were making a movie of it? Well, that was it. We made the note to contact Robert when the movie was coming out and now that time is here! The Bye Bye Man has arrived on theaters, and one of the special treats is that they kept the location of the film in Madison (even if they didn’t actually shoot the movie here!)

The Bye Bye Man Robert Damon shneck

Robert wrote the tale of The Bye Bye Man as just a single chapter in his 2005 book, The President’s Vampire: Strange-but-True Tales of the United States of America, but it’s become his most famous story. It was told to him at a Devil’s Night party by a friend he met at the Parapsychology Foundation in New York City and that person was actually one of the three people that the story really happened to.

During the cold Wisconsin winter of 1990, three friends kept themselves occupied by messing around with the Ouija Board. But the board put them in touch with a supernatural killer who rode America’s railways and who could sense you if you only thought of his name. Once you said that name out loud, he bound the train in your direction. And not too long afterwards, the friends experienced some strange things that made them believe The Bye Bye Man might be more than just a scary story.

the bye bye man robert damon schneck
Oh no, The Bye Bye Man is so scary, I lost my shirt!

Of course, we make Robert tell the whole story of The Bye Bye Man again in this episode, because that’s half the fun! But if you’re interested in the process of professional writing,  he also gives us the story of how he became a successful paranormal author, what happened that turned a chapter of his book into a wide-release feature film, and some more strange and fascinating facts from our nation’s history.

We heartily recommend following Robert on his Facebook page, Historian of the Strange and pick up a copy of his original book, which has been re-released in 2016 with new material as The Bye Bye Man And Other Strange-But-True Tales.

robert damon schneck the bye bye man gloomsinger
The Bye Bye Man and his hunting beast, Gloomsinger

And, perfect timing, the Page 2 Screen podcast discusses the screenplay for The Bye Bye Man in this week’s episode! We’re curious how the film will compare to Robert’s original telling of the story. Check it out here:  International Screenwriter’s Assocation Page 2 Screen

One of the best parts of The Bye Bye Man‘s story is the killer’s strange accomplice, who acts as something of a hunting dog for The Bye Bye Man. You’ll have to hear the whole story to really appreciate it, but we just couldn’t resist writing a creepy soundtrack for the Bye Bye Man’s little buddy, the terrifyingly named Gloomsinger.

When the whistling of a thousand tongues draws near
When a name will find you once you only hear
On the tracks and impending, never resting, never ending,
the whistling of a thousand tongues draws near

When the vision of a thousand eyes grows nigh,
Seeing you wherever you try to hide,
A friendly voice, knock at the door, a bloody sack, flesh and gore,
When the vision of a thousand eyes grows nigh.

126 – Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot with Joe Gisondi

Joe Gisondi grew up in New Jersey reading the National Enquirer and from an early age. Before 1967, the tabloid focused on gory true crime stories, but in order to be stocked in newspaper checkout lines they changed their focus to celebrities, UFOs, and the occult. And the world was made better for it, because it inspired the paranormal bug in little Joe Gisondi.

joe gisondi bigfoot
They’ve been running these stories since the 60s, everybody…

Joe worked at different Florida newspapers for two decade, becoming an expert in sports news coverage, before settling down as a journalism professor at Eastern Illinois University in 2002. But he never lost that interest in the weird and wonderful and decided to write a book about the hunt for Bigfoot.

joe gisondi bigfoot patterson flim
Bigfoot from the Patterson film, what some people consider the best evidence of the creature

You know it’s  gonna be a great book when America’s eminent Cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman gave it the NUMBER TWO recommendation for 2015’s top cryptozoology books (right behind our friend Tea Krulos’ excellent Monster Hunters!)

Joe’s take was not just writing about Bigfoot, but about the people who have upended their lives in hunting for the famous monster. What motivates someone to take months and years of their lives, go in the woods, and chase after a mythical (until it’s proven at least) beast? Especially when most other people just think you’re crazy.

Joe Gisondi Finding Bigfoot Matt Moneymaker
Matt Moneymaker from Finding Bigfoot, one of the hunters Joe profiles in the book

That’s what Joe intended to find out. In the process of working on the book, he got to go on several expeditions himself and he might have had his own sasquatch encounter. We cover those expeditions, the weirdest thing he ever saw in Florida, and some of the regional differences in Bigfoot/Skunk Ape/Sasquatch lore in this interview.

You can pick up a copy of Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot right here, like the book on Facebook, and learn more about Joe at this link. He’s got a weekly sports podcast and you can find Joe on Twitter at @MonsterTrekJG for Bigfoot and @joegisondi for sports media.

Obsession is something we often deal with on this podcast, and according to German Existentialist philosopher, Martin Heidegger, humans use these obsessions to distract ourselves to think about anything besides our impending mortality. Like Top Dollar says in The Crow, “Childhood’s over the moment you know you’re gonna die.”

Movies, sports, books, gardening, Bigfoot hunting,etc… we do almost anything to distract ourselves. To be (in Heidegger’s words) “authentic” we have to own each moment as it happens, accept our past, and accept that we will eventually become “non-being”. Bigfoot hunters own each moment through their quest into the unknown. This Sunspot song is accepting that life sucks sometimes (after all, we can’t always be out in the Woods looking for the Sasquatch!) but we can “own” each moment the best we can and in this particular song, “owning the moment through partying!”

Monday comes and Tuesday goes,
Dishes suck and laundry blows.
I’d love to tell my boss to kiss my a$$.
Wednesday’s here and then it’s gone,
My best friend’s passed out on the lawn,
And Thursday? $%^& Thursday!

Raise your glass to Friday,
When I can be all I can be,
I’m dying to party and I want a life that’s owned by me.

We only get one shot,
Somedays I don’t even wanna try.
Tonight’s our night to rock,
Life sucks, let’s live before we die.

My momma slaps me in my face,
My girlfriend puts me in my place,
Why didn’t anyone say it’d be this tough?
My minivan is in the shop,
Because I backed into a cop,
I’m flat broke, bored, and sitting on my duff.

As many times I’ve hurt my pride,
I just can’t stop this wicked side of me,
Because Mr. Hyde, that bastard, wants me back,
And I’ll get too inebriated,
Wake up again humiliated,
I’m just trying to have some fun,
Cut me some slack.

We only get one shot,
Somedays I don’t even wanna try.
Tonight’s our night to rock,
Life sucks, let’s live before we die.



125 – Princess Leia and The Paranormal: Carrie Fisher’s Ghost Story and Psychic Experiences

It’s another bittersweet episode as we remember actress and writer Carrie Fisher, who passed away on December 27th, 2016. A performer and a personality who found her artistic voice in her personal struggles with mental illness and addiction, she was as inspiring off the screen as she was on.

carrie fisher ghost story
Snarky to the very last!

When Disney bought Star Wars in 2012, it was a new lease on life for a story that a lot of its original fans became disillusioned with. George Lucas is a creator of boundless visual imagination, but the stories he was telling in the prequels seemed to no longer resonate with the fans that had grown up with the films. Star Wars changed the landscape of  popular cinema and reinvigorated space adventure. It influenced everything and its impact can hardly be overstated.

carrie fisher ghost story
Retro-blaster, cool sidebuns, and a deadly look…

When President Reagan envisioned a nuclear missile shield in the atmosphere over the United States, it was called the “Star Wars” program. He even called the Soviet Union an “evil Empire”. In the United Kingdom Census in 2001, 390,000 people listed “Jedi” as their religion. Star Wars had entered the consciousness of our world far beyond popular entertainment. And so much of it is mystical, what else are the Jedi besides space wizards with psychic powers who can come back from the dead as ghosts?

carrie fisher ghost story
The gold bikini that launched a thousand starships…

The Star Wars prequels however, while wildly financially successful and groundbreaking in special effects, seemed to leave many of the original fans cold. In their eyes, Lucas went from a visionary to a joke, a billionaire with a waddle who had lost touch with what made his original films such classics.

carrie fisher ghost story
Episode 1.5: The Phantom Neck

(Full disclosure: I liked the visually breathtaking prequels more than I liked The Force Awakens, which was too much fanservice and just a retread of the original. Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford’s performances were the only real bright spots, in my humble and extremely unpopular opinion.)

carrie fisher ghost story
My favorite moment from “The Force Awakens”

When Disney bought the franchise they gave the fans what they wanted, which was the further adventures of the Skywalker family. Luke, his sister Leia, her husband Han Solo, and their offspring. So much of the greatness of the original films is tied directly to the chemistry of the trio of leads, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and of course, Carrie Fisher.

carrie fisher ghost story
Some things get better with age.

And in the new series of films, people were hoping to see a lot more of Leia, who went from Princess to General. An icon of female empowerment who went from a damsel in distress to a breaker of chains and a leader of armies. She set the sci-fi standard for female characters.

When Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, passed away from a stroke the day after her daughter died, it was a sad and eerie story of a broken heart. But that wasn’t the  only uncanny thing that happened in her life. She not only was romantic with noted paranormal enthusiast, Dan Aykroyd, but she had her own ghost story when her friend died in her bed (while she was in it!), a psychic friend of her mother’s might have predicted her Star Wars fame, and none other than Corey Feldman himself said that she had some kind of psychic power that she saw his own struggles with addiction.

In this episode, Wendy, Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts, and I discuss her importance to the world of film, female heroes in science fiction, and her relationship to the paranormal.

For the song this week, we had to include the video from Halloween 2009, where we went as Luke, Leia, and Han from Return of the Jedi. Wendy even made a Jabba to go with her gold bikini and I had lost my shirt at that point in the night, so I was less Luke and more Rancor Keeper! We often quote some of our favorite songs in a track of ours called “My Own Worst Enemy” and for this live tribute we did some of our favorite Star Wars musical moments.  There were several other partygoers dressed as Jedi at the show so we even got to enjoy a little lightsaber action during the performance!

I think she smokes just to blow smoke rings,
I think I’m drinking just to forget her name.
She looks at me funny, like Jesus on the cross,
This is no Fortunate Fall, but it feels like “Paradise Lost”.

So, get thee to a nunnery, you b!t(h.
I drank myself to sleep a thousand times.
I broke my foot running after you,
but I can’t seem to get you off my mind.

I might even be my own worst enemy.
Standing in the corner of my shame.
I might even be my own worst enemy,
because I really thought you could keep me sane.

She looks at me funny and says, “I think of you like my therapist,”
I laughed, she didn’t.
I touched an angel; I thought I brushed a wing.
I thought it meant something, she didn’t.

So, get thee to a nunnery, you b!t(h.
I drank myself to sleep a thousand times.
I broke my foot running after you,
but I can’t seem to get you off my mind.

I might even be my own worst enemy.
Drinking so that I forget your name,
I might even be my own worst enemy,
because I really thought you could keep me sane.

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

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