Category Archives: Podcast

217 – 1871 Firestorm: Ghosts, Comets, and the Virgin Mary

On October 8th, 1871 the deadliest fire disaster in American history struck Peshtigo, Wisconsin, a small town up north past Green Bay and almost to Upper Michigan. Estimates of casualties ran from over a thousand people to up to twenty-five hundred lost lives. People talk about the firestorm that blew through the town, a “tornado of flames” as they jumped into the river to escape the blaze. Not much of a respite as many then developed hypothermia from the cold water. It was a nightmarish hellscape as fire clouds filled the sky and the heat was so massive that it created its own wind, spreading the inferno further and further. Too many bodies were burned beyond recognition and of the corpses they could find, many couldn’t be identified because the only other people that could identify them were the other bodies. It was an incredible tragedy that was overshadowed in the news by another famous tragedy that happened that night, The Great Chicago Fire.

Mel Kishner’s painting of the people hiding in the river from the flames at Peshtigo

That’s right, two famous fires occurred on the same night. And it wasn’t just those, several towns in Michigan experienced incredible fires that night as well. The entire town of Holland (where I spent a very formative summer before Seventh Grade) burned down as did Port Huron. So, what happened that night that so many fires occurred at once?

Well, no cause of the fires has been confirmed for sure, but scientists believe that it was because it was such a dry summer in the Upper Midwest (there was only a quarter of the amount of the average amount of rainfall and Chicago itself only got one inch between the 4th of July and the night of the blaze) the towns were ripe for it. Fires had already been burning near Peshtigo as they were clearing land (the literal slash n’ burn technique) for farming and development that summer, so much so that a lighthouse near Green Bay was on twenty four hours a day that summer. In Chicago, they famously blamed Mrs. O’Leary because the fire started near her farm, and the legend was that she was milking a cow when he kicked over a lantern and started the barn on fire.

Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over the lantern

As early as 1883, Igantius Donnelly, a Minnesota politician proposed in his book, Ragnarok: The Age of Fire And Gravel, suggested that it was a meteor storm as Earth was passing through the remnants of Comet Biela. A comet discovered in 1826 that was supposed to be appear in 1872 and didn’t, leading him to speculate that we passed through the meteor shower of the comet’s debris and those meteors started the fire. Although, since the year before Ignatius also wrote a book on Atlantis that basically formed the modern narrative popularized by Edgar Cayce, his theory is still a little bit controversial to say the least. 

But that’s merely one of the weird stories that came out of the 1871 firestorm. From the shadow figures people see on the streets of Peshtigo to the only apparition of the Virgin Mary officially recognized by the Catholic Church. This tragedy might be the most paranormal natural disaster we’ve ever seen.

Scott Markus from WhatsYourGhostStory.com and author of Voices From The Chicago Grave joins Wendy and I for this episode as we tell ghost stories of the great fires of 1871. Here’s some of the highlights:

For the song this week, we thought it would be cool to learn one of the most popular songs of 1871. Not only because it’s a fun challenge, but also because we want to play this song and some other contemporary music when we do our own investigation of the sites of the Great 1871 Firestorm. We’d love to stir up an EVP or some ghostly activity by playing a song that the spirits know. So, we decided on a William Shakespeare Hays song that sold over a million copies of sheet music in 1871. That’s like going platinum way before platinum existed! Here is the Sunspot version of “Mollie Darling”.

Won’t you tell me Mollie darling, that you love none else but me
For I love you Mollie darling,  you are all the world to me
Oh tell me darling that you love me, put your little hand in mine       
Take my heart sweet Mollie darling, say that you will give me thine.

Molly fairest sweetest dearest, look up darling tell me this
Do you love me Mollie darling? Let your answer be a kiss.

Stars are smiling Mollie darling, through the mystic veil of nightF 
They seem laughing Mollie darling, while fair Luna hides her light   
Oh no one listens but the flowers, while they hang their heads in shame
They are modest Mollie darling, when they hear me call your name     

Mollie fairest, sweetest, dearest, look up darling tell me this
Do you love me Mollie darling? Let your answer be a kiss.

216 – The Blood of Bathory: Parabiosis, Vampire Facials, and The World’s Most Evil Woman

When The Bye Bye Man author Robert Damon Schneck told us about how he was surprised that people all the way up until the 19th Century believed in the healing power of blood, the first person I thought of was the infamous “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, a woman allegedly so depraved that she would bathe in the blood of virgins that she killed just because she believed it made her skin look younger. 

Ya gotta admit, she does look like a psycho in this portrait

What a silly idea, I’ve always thought. How primitive and savage, how absolutely barbaric and unscientific. Blood can’t make you feel and look younger and it certainly can’t make you live forever like a vampire. But that’s where I was wrong, and maybe the Blood Countess was right. 

If Kim Kardashian killed people for her beauty, at least she’d be famous for something else besides being famous…

They do have a special skin therapy called a platelet-rich plasma treatment where they use blood plasma and something terrifyingly called “micro-needling” (which operates exactly how it sounds). Kim Kardashian hash tagged hers as a “Vampire Facial” when she did it originally. It works by damaging the skin with the micro-needling and then using the blood, which contains natural healing factors that will supposedly rejuvenate the skin by activating more of its own healing factors all the time. Does it work? Well, the jury is out. But could Bathory have been onto something? 

Well, the whole “bathing in blood” thing is an exaggeration. That didn’t even enter the legend until the mid-Nineteenth Century. Bathory was born in 1560 and was part of one of the most wealthy and powerful families in Hungary. In fact, the family name was so powerful that her husband, who came from the second-most powerful family in Hungary, took her last name instead of making her take his. 

It was claimed that she was the world’s most prolific serial killer, ending the lives of over 650 young girls, whose families had entrusted them to be in the service and protection of the countess. But with a life intertwined with war, politics, intrigue, the everyday cruelty of masters and serfs, the truth behind her crimes is much more complex than I was originally led to believe. While we can’t quite redeem the lady’s reputation (she probably was a sadist and killed some people), we can at least put into doubt her status as the Most Evil Woman in the World. 

That’s some straight up Human Centipede stuff on these mice…

Sure, but is there anything to the idea that young blood can heal an older person? Yeah, there is, it’s actually far less barbaric than I thought. Parabiosis means “living next to each other”. Think about the word symbiosis, it’s a similar idea, but in symbiosis it’s just two creatures with a special relationship that they both get something out of. In parabiosis the two creatures are actually next to each other, sharing blood, and it was explored through research where they connected the bloodstreams by literally stitching together an older mouse and a younger mouse. But what they discovered that young blood helps rejuvenate old tissue. It works!

This showed up in the news because in 2016 Gawker-buster and PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel had mentioned that he was interested in conquering death, on not just fighting aging, but trying to live forever. In one article he’s quoted as mentioning he’s interested in parabiosis. A later article claims that his company might be interested in a  particular startup, Ambrosia Medical, who was leading the way with transfusing young blood to old people.

Ambrosia is the food of the gods in Greek Mythology and we all know that Gods are immortal. Ambrosia is also the name of the chocolate factory where Jeffrey Dahmer used to work and he’s another guy that believed that if you ingested part of another person, that they gave you their power. So, I guess that name is appropriate in more ways than one. 

Fast forward to 2018 and Ambrosia is planning on opening a physical location in New York before the end of the year. Only $8,000 can get you a transfusion of some young blood. It’s a 180-degree turn from our disgust at Elizabeth Bathory. Now we’re not shocked about older people getting transfusions of young blood to reverse the aging process, now we’re going to pay for the privilege.  

So, in this episode we cover:

  • The fate of Elizabeth Bathory and her strange assistants
  • Why Bathory might have been framed for her enemies’ political gain
  • The ancient beliefs in how the blood of someone strong can help the sick
  • The parabiosis experiments that led to the modern Ambrosia Medical facility
  • Why vampire facials might not be a good idea

The story of Elizabeth Bathory puts the situation of a noblewoman and a serf in Sixteenth Century Europe into extreme contrast. The real sick thing about Elizabeth wasn’t that she was given to sadistic proclivities or that she was bathing in blood, it was that she was born into the power over life and death of another human being. That lives were subject to the whims of her capriciousness. Her accomplices were tortured and killed while she was merely sentenced to life imprisonment and walled up in her own castle. The difference between noble and peasant is what really sticks out as the injustice. People didn’t do anything because she was a noblewoman, she was allowed to indulge her sickest instincts because of politics. And when you blame the system, that means everyone involved is a little dirty with “The Blood of Bathory”.

Who’s the most wicked woman to live in this world?
Who bathes in the blood of the all the innocent girls

Get wet.

He turned a blind eye but the King he could see
Murder for pleasure in the family tree

Indulge
the aristocracy
for every hand is wet with
the blood of Bathory

Pins under fingernails or a
a honey roasted feast
you only matter as much
as your ancestry
the tribes will battle
the ruling class will speechify,
we’ll watch the fireworks
as the little people die.

Who’s the wickedest woman to ever live in this world?
Who bathes in the blood of the all the innocent girls

Indulge
the aristocracy
for every hand is wet with
the blood of Bathory

215 – Avril Is Dead: The Strange Cases of Pop Culture Doppelgängers

Avril Lavigne’s latest single, “Head Above Water” is off her first album in five years. After battling Lyme Disease, Lavigne said that it was thinking of her own mortality and going through the living Hell of a night where she believed that she was going to die that inspired the music off of her new album. But some people on the Internet believe that the real Avril Lavigne died over fifteen years ago and it’s her lookalike that has been living her life instead.  Is the Avril Lavigne who is singing “Head Above Water” really a doppelgänger originally named Melissa Vandella? Is it really Melissa who married the guy from Nickelback AND the guy from Sum 41 (well, at least she keeps it Canadian!)? Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated, huh?

Well, not really. A Brazilian fan site revealed the fact that they made the whole thing up as a hoax in 2012 as a social media experiment. Could they start a rumor that other eoieoke would report on? Well, here we are, good Jon guys. Avril of course is not the first musician that people said died was replaced surreptitiously, she’s just the latest. Paul McCartney obviously is the most famous with the “Paul Is Dead” business from the late 1960s.

If you haven’t heard the story, it goes that Paul McCartney got into a car accident and died in 1966 and the British government asked the Beatles to stay together so there wouldn’t be a rash of teenage suicides in the wake of the band breaking up. And I almost believe that. No band was bigger than the Beatles, ever.  We had  a Beatles week in my Sixth Grade class because my Baby Boomer teacher was so excited to talk about them. Books after books have been written about them, they’re the biggest, richest, and most famous musicians ever. They have a song royalty and merchandise machine that will last long after I’m dead. 

People heard “I buried Paul” at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Turn me on, Deadman” when they played “Revolution #9” backwards and they said that John was leaving them clues about what really happened. They said that there were hints in Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to the name of the impostor and that the fact that they stopped performing live at the end of 1966 meant that they didn’t want the new Paul to get exposed. People even say that the cover of Abbey Road is supposed to represent a “funeral” for Paul, with John as the clergyman, Ringo as the mourner, and George as the gravedigger. Sorry, I think that’s reaching. If the real Paul McCartney actually died, this new guy will have been Paul for almost three times as long as the original Paul was alive. Plus if this guy wrote “Let It Be”, then I like the doppelgänger better!

The King Lives?

Paul might be the most famous, but the idea that Elvis Presley traded places with his doppelgänger is the plot to Joe Lansdale’s wonderful short story (and modern horror cinema classic) Bubba Ho-Tep. And fascinatingly enough, an Elvis impersonator named Jimmy Ellis used the idea of the King faking his own death and returning to sing under another name to catapult himself to some minor hits and touring success in the late 1970s. Never underestimate the ability of American marketing ingenuity to turn a tragedy into a way to make money.

Live in Madison in 2005

Perhaps the weirdest case of synchronicity is something that just happened with one of our favorite musicians, Andrew W.K. If you haven’t heard him, it’s kind of like a Norman Vincent Peale book set to industrial heavy metal. There’s lots of screaming, lots of talk about partying, lots of dancing stupidly. Basically his music is amazing and as a band, we’ve been huge fans of him since right around 2002 where we would blast I Get Wet to keep us awake as we drove three abreast in a little truck going from gig to gig. We’ve gone to see him a dozen times, we opened for him when he played in Madison in 2015, and we just saw him again in Austin this year. 

Wendy and I just decided to talk about rock star doppelgängers on Friday, so when Stereogum released an article this weekend about an obscure controversy that erupted around Andrew W.K. years ago and that he might not be the person who recorded the first album and that he was replaced, well, we knew it was kismet!

First things first, Andrew W.K. is ridiculous. He wears a dirty white t-shirt and filthy acid-washed jeans, that’s his uniform.  His twitter is constant positivity about the power of partying. He had a column in the Village Voice completely dedicated to making people feel better about themselves through partying, pizza, and music. His show on VH1 was called Your Friend, Andrew W.K. It’s a non-stop performance art piece that has been going on since his first album, and that dedication has made his music mean even that much more to his fans. Sometimes at his shows you’ll see people dressed in the AWK uniform (unlike Wendy who makes her own Andrew W.K. wear!)

When he first visited England, even the BBC joked that it was rumored that Andrew W.K. wasn’t a real person but just a hoax conceived by Dave Grohl (from Nirvana and Foo Fighters) of all people. But in the liner notes for Andrew W.K.’s first album, it mentions that it’s executive produced by someone named Steev Mike (obviously a pseudonym). There is an article about Steev Mike in the early press for Andrew W.K. (before he’s signed to a major label) that uses Andrew’s picture for Steev. So what’s that about?

In 2004, a concert in New Jersey is abruptly canceled mid-show and people say that the Andrew W.K. that was onstage that night wasn’t the real one, it was just a guy dressed up as the original. Then, his official website is hacked  by Steev Mike himself, telling Andrew not to “squeeze him out”. Andrew makes a few cryptic statements, but on the Internet people start theorizing that Andrew W.K. is a fictional creation and this is just an actor playing him. Kind of like Pierce Brosnan in Remington Steele. People even say that the face of the Andrews looks different from the first album to the second album, that it’s a new long-haired white shirted wild man playing the character.

What’s the truth? Well, that’s what the Stereogum writer tries to get at in the article, but even Andrew W.K. officially says something on Facebook in a personal message to everyone that likes his page:

We urge you to dismiss the claim that Andrew isn’t real, or any similar assertions that paint him as something he is not. Andrew has never worked behind the scenes with any individual or group in order to make it appear as though he doesn’t exist.

So, the debate returns. What do I think? It’s just a performance art piece that was meant to dial up the mystery when Alternate Reality Games were hot in the early 2000s and they got a lot more traction out of the power of positive thinking then by creating some anti-Andrew W.K. The plan changed when they lost their label deal for their next album. But is it a different person playing the character? His face really thickened between I Get Wet and The Wolf

Younger Andrew
Older Andrew

I have to admit, that I kinda thought the same thing. It might just be getting older because he was so young in the first pic.

Was Andrew W.K. created by committee? Maybe. Do I care? Not really. The music and live show are my favorite parts and that seems to be the same guy since we first saw him in concert in 2004 in Milwaukee.

Bu people in general, demand honesty and authenticity in particular from musicians more than other artists it seems. The fake Paul wrote “Live and Let Die”, the new AWK wrote “Music Is Worth Living For”, the fake Elvis gave us Bubba Ho-Tep, the fake Avril gave us, well… I don’t know what she gave us, but I’m okay with all of these things.

There’s something particular about musicians, we like them dangerous, we like them real. It’s Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil, it’s Ozzy Osbourne as the Prince of Darkness (and not a doddering old addict). it’s Alice Cooper as a horror movie character and not a golfing Christian. We take that artifice seriously, maybe too seriously. When we think that they need to use a lookalike in order to deal with fame, maybe it’s fame we should be rethinking.

The Sunspot song this week plays around with the idea of the evil twin. Someone that looks like you that’s doing all the things that you don’t dare to. Are they acting out your worse impulses are they living your life better than you are? Is your doppelgänger the one who deserves your life because he won’t waste it? That’s part of the inspiration behind this week’s paranormal Sunspot track, “Doppelgänger”.

There’s a fetch who’s got my face
Doing things I’d never do
Saying the things I cannot say
Vandalizing the truth

Who’s the real
and who’s the fake
I gotta know before this psyche breaks

Doppelgänger

There’s an impostor
playing tricks on me
A psychopath
with my identity
There’s a counterfeit
walking round in my skin
My personality splits
Who is the Evil Twin?

Who’s My double, my alter ego
just a carbon copy
But in the end there’s only one
it’s either him or me

Who’s the real
and who’s the fake
I gotta know before this psyche breaks

Doppelgänger

There’s an impostor
playing tricks on me
A psychopath
with my identity
There’s a counterfeit
walking round in my skin
My personality splits
Who is the Evil Twin?

214 – Angels Sound Like Yoda: Channeling with Danielle Egnew

Danielle Egnew clearly remembers cuddling up into her aunt’s skirts when she was two years old, afraid of her big scary uncle Dominick who was looming over her.  She remembers how her aunt looked, she remembers the color of the skirt, she remembers the physical feeling. 

Danielle Egnew, when she ran for Billings, Montana mayor in 2017

When Danielle was seventeen, she shared that memory with her mother. But her mother told her that it wasn’t possible. Danielle’s aunt had already passed away at the time. So, who was in her memory? 

Danielle Egnew has been seeing spirits and listening to otherworldly voices from the wilds of Montana since she was a child. She could hear the tonal, musical sounds of the angels and feel the “blacker than black” shapes of demons in her teens. Her muse led her to form a band and she spent the late 90s and early 2000s performing and touring with her group, Pope Jane.

Make sure you watch this video to enjoy a pop-rock blast from the past. As someone who lived through the music and fashion scene of the late 90’s (and it’s unique sartorial choices), it was fun visiting (but not sure I’d want to live there again!)

In the mid-200s as the music industry was changing, Danielle decided to finally embrace the entities that had been speaking to her all her life and a chance reading for the Burbank Police Department in the case of a missing child put her on the path of becoming a professional psychic and angelic channel. So what does that mean?

She describes her work as more of a “translation service” than anything else. She can receive the messages that these angels and extra-dimensional creatures have for us and she shares them with her clients and audiences. While she continues to write and perform music, create art, and do personal readings for those looking for assistance from beyond, her latest project is the “Ascension Tour” where she is doing live translations of these mystical communications for audiences. 

If you’re interested in becoming more in tune with “whatever is out there”, then you’ll enjoy this episode. Danielle goes into detail with what it’s like to be a receiver, how the messages show up, what they sound like, and ways to make it easier to “hear what the universe has to say”. Some of the topics we cover in our conversation:

  • How angels “sound like Yoda” when they talk
  • What it’s like to grow up with a paranormal radio in your head
  • How all artists can be channels for the other side
  • Is there a Hell? Her answer might be a little different than you expect
  • What happens to pure souls with faulty biology (how some humans are broken robots)?
  • Her tips for getting in touch with your psychic side

Check out Danielle Egnew’s website to find out out how you can be part of the live Ascension tour and how you can get in touch with her.

I think that the most interesting thing that Danielle said to me is that human spirits are basically good, it’s the machinery of the body that’s broken. So there isn’t any Hell really. We have a second chance the next time around, even if we’re evil, even if we’re mentally ill. Even if there’s some kind of imbalance, we are capable of being forgiven. 

That reminds me of the legend of Tannhäuser, someone who the Pope said his staff had a better chance of growing new leaves than of God forgiving him. Well, what happens is that the staff ends up blooming, but it’s too late. No one is beyond redemption, no one is unworthy of forgiveness if they are penitent.

What does it mean if there is no Hell? What does it mean if the Universe doesn’t care about justice? What does that say about Free Will? Anyway, just some questions to ponder as you listen to our latest Sunspot track, “Bury It With Me”.

A polluted genealogy
colonized my head
And if vengeance isn’t mine
then anger has no end

a faulty biology
for this blood shed
and if karma is a lie
then you never can forget

Redemption is tears in the rain
sometime before sacred and after profane
So when the sleeper wakes up from the dream
a thousand years have disappeared in the land of the Faerie Queene

as the sinner begs his penance
these wet androids come to me
when there’s no one left to blame
then we’re just broken machines

Oh, bury it with me

213 – The Autumnal Equinox: Legends and Superstitions

When people who live in less temperate subtropical climates talk about how they “miss the seasons” they’re really talking about Fall and Spring. And Autumn is something to behold: the landscape canvas as colors change on the trees, the refreshing briskness of the air, it’s life’s last gasp before the cold dead of Winter. Traditionally on September 21st, 22d, or 23rd the Autumnal Equinox is when it starts getting darker every day in the Northern Hemisphere, which is depressing. But it’s also a time for great food, bonfire parties, and celebrating reaping the harvest from the work done earlier in the year.

It’s also when ancient peoples believed that the Veil started becoming thinner between our world and the spirit world, so of course we love it because it’s the beginning of the Halloween season. Some people say you’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day, we say that’s when you start wearing costumes!

Check out this sweet fantasy art, it’s “Modron” by Shanina Conway

It’s also a cool Holiday for neo-Pagans called Mabon (we just decided to say it “May-bone” because that’s an acceptable pronunciation and it sounds more badass). Mabon was stolen from his mother Modron (the Welsh mother goddess who brings life to the world) when he was only three days old. He was taken to the Underworld and that’s why we have winter because the Mother Goddess was peeved at her child being stolen. Funny enough, that’s super similar to the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. WHOA, could that be more cross-cultural pollination We explore that and a lot more in this episode which was a topic requested by one of our Patreon members (thanks for the idea, Chuck!)

Who’s that cool guy wearing Blu Blockers and sitting on Hadrian’s Wall? Oh wait, it’s me!

Some of the other topics we cover in this episode:

  • Will you cast a shadow at noon on the day of the Equinox?
  • How you can perform a magic ritual with just an apple
  • How much it costs to party at Stonehenge on an equinox
  • Why Medieval Jews thought it wasn’t safe to drink the water during the Autumnal Equinox
  • Is it really easier to balance an egg during an Equinox?

For the song this week, we picked out the legend of Mabon because in one of the variations of the tale, he is saved by King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Mabon was stolen and taken beyond Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman barrier meant to hold off the native Britons that they couldn’t conquer. Arthur and his men needed the help of several magical animals in order to break Mabon out of his prison and they freed the child who would eventually own Arthur in battle.

Well, when you’ve got King Arthur and magical animals to work with, we couldn’t miss out on that! And it just wouldn’t be a British-influenced song unless we made it a little Iron Maiden-eqsue. So here’s the Sunspot take on the story of Mabon, “Beyond The Wall”.

In the land of the Savage,
a barbarian horde
lies the child of the Goddess
to become the Harvest Lord.

The scales of light and dark in perfect balance
the son of Modron will com to take his vengeance

We ride
we fight
We hear
the call,
to save
the child
beyond
the Wall
beyond the Wall.

With the power of the Stag
and the wisdom of the Salmon.
The Knights of the Round,
have come for the Green Man.

The scales of light and dark in perfect balance
the son of Modron will come to take his vengeance

We ride
we fight
We hear
the call,
to save
the child
beyond
the Wall
beyond the Wall.

212 – Miracle Worker? Faith Healing with Josh Tongol

The first thing I think of when I think of faith healing is psychic surgery, a form of bloody theater where a practitioner digs into a body without the use of tools and pulls out what’s ailing the patient. It was popular in the mid-20th Century in the Philippines and Brazil and even comedian Andy Kaufman underwent a 6-week psychic surgery regimen before he died of lung cancer in 1984 (how much he did it for show versus actually hoping to be cured is unknown.) It’s an unusual tradition that’s been called a “complete hoax” by the Federal Trade Commission. 

The Amazing Randi performing psychic surgery on The Tonight Show

The first thing Wendy could think of is Steve Martin in the movie Leap of Faith, where he plays a traveling huckster preacher going from town to town to “heal” people desperate for a little bit of holiness in their lives.

I’ve always thought the idea that God could heal you and just chooses not to completely absurd. I’ve always had a materialist bent and in this area particularly because it’s so easy for people to take advantage of the desperate and the sick, much like Steve Martin in the movie. 

But then I thought a little more about it. Faith healing is humanity’s oldest form of medicine. Before a shaman could figure out medicines, before there was chemotherapy, before there were even leeches(!) there was just the basic belief that you will get over your sickness and return to normal. There was the faith that you were going to get better. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, but isn’t that belief part of what helps you get better?

Even Dungeons & Dragons has clerical healing.

My father grew up in the Christian Science tradition and we all know the stories about how Christian Scientists don’t go to Doctors (which would be a good follow-up episode to this one) and the “laying of hands” was a Christian as well as Jewish faith healing tradition for centuries. According to a Gallup poll in 2013, 39% of Americans go to church every week. And when you’re in church you pray for people that are sick. Even if we’re not believers, we know that good wishes probably can’t hurt them and a positive attitude might help. Now, I’m not making excuses for charlatans, but I am saying that while it might be different verbiage, a lot of us deal in “faith healing” a lot more than we think we do.

I think about a study that was done when I was in college in the 1990s where we were told about kids with cancer playing a video game that would fight their illness and how it had promising results. That was actually the aspect of the field that I was most excited about. But isn’t faith healing just another form of psychological therapy to go along with modern medicine?

Joshua Tongol

Our guest in this episode is Joshua Tongol. While he comes from a Filipino family that was raised in a Christian tradition where they believe in miracles like you would have seen at Steve Martin’s church in Leap of Faith. Josh was born missing a hand and all his life he prayed to be healed. He went to Christian revivals and services when he grew up in California purposely trying to heal himself, he truly believed that God would re-grow his hand. 

It didn’t happen and Josh found himself at odds with his faith. That is, until he started seeing healing in his own life that neither he nor his doctors could explain. Josh’s journey might have taken him away from the church of his youth, but it brought him towards a new understanding of spirituality. In this conversation, we talk about:

  • How Josh’s life was ruined by debilitating sciatica 
  • What transformed in his life that made him a believer again
  • The first steps anyone can take in using their belief to help them heal
  • More than healing, astral travel and how Josh started having out-of-body experiences as well

Josh Tongol has a podcast called The FlipsideRethinking Spirituality and is the author of two books, So You Thought You Knew: Letting Go of Religion and The Secret to Awesomeness: Creating the Life You’ve Always Wanted. He currently resides in the Philippines and you can visit him at his site. JoshuaTongol.com.

For this week’s song, we were inspired to sing about the televangelists of our youths. Guys like Jim Bakker and Oral Roberts were always making promises if they just got a little bit more money. God would provide more for you if you provided for them. And since we were hearkening back to the 80s, we went with some classic 80s’ Heavy Metal style. Here’s Sunspot with “Miracle Worker”.

You say I’ve gotta God Complex,
I don’t think you understand
there’s a millions who know the truth,
they’ve seen my bleeding hands.

The more you believe
the more you will be healed
the more you accept
the more it is real
Faith in mysterious ways
How much can you pay?
Miracle Worker

I feed on trust, maybe placebo
Some use anesthetic, I’ve got the opiate of people.

The more you believe
the more you will be healed
the more you accept
the more it is real
Faith in mysterious ways
How much can you pay?
Miracle Worker




211 – Sisters of Evil: The Real Horror Stories Behind The Nun

YouTube had to pull the trailer because of the jump scare at the end, so consider yourself warned!

Nuns, they can be scary when they’re not evil! Rapping knuckles, washing mouths out with soap, the outfits and the stern looks are nightmare fuel for millions of Catholic schoolchildren. But when they’re creepy, that’s a whole different level of scary nun.

 The Nun is the latest film in the series that began with The Conjuring in 2013. Who would have thought that Ed and Lorraine Warren would get their own cinematic universe? This new movie fleshes out the terrifying sister that was stalking Lorraine in the second film starting at the house from The Amityville Horror and haunting them all the way to England. While the new film The Nun is entirely fictional, the did base the evil nun demon’s name, Valak, on a real source and it’s origins go all the way back to the Old Testament.

King Solomon was the son of David, the guy who beat the giant Goliath with a slingshot and eventually became King of Israel and the star on the Israeli flag is named after him. If King David existed, scholars place him somewhere around 1000 BC. His son, Solomon became king as well, and is famous for being super wise. He’s the one where two women came to him with a baby saying that they both were the real mother and asked him to choose one to be. He said that they should cut the baby in half and split it, and then when one of the women recoiled in horror, he said she was the true mother because she cared the most. I dunno that it would hold up in court today (well, I guess OJ’s acting skills were pretty handy with that glove) but the Judgement of Solomon story is one of his best known acts.

The Seal of Solomon – the symbol that is supposed to help give you power over demons. That is metal AF.

The other great act he is known for is building the first temple of Jerusalem, the one that took 7 years to build and housed the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark. That’s straight from the Bible, but where the fun stuff comes in is the Testament of Solomon, a work that was written in Greek sometime between the 1st and 5th Centuries. In that book, Solomon is given a ring by God with a magic seal that can enslave demons and make them work for you. He uses the ring to put 72 demons to work for him in building that great temple.

Now, in the original Greek, the word “daemon” doesn’t necessarily mean evil, it just means any supernatural being. But in Medieval times, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian occultists took the concept and ran with it. They retconned Solomon from a wise king into a wizard and believed that you could conjure them yourself to try and make them work for you.

And these Medieval occultists (and not so medieval, Aleister Crowley spent some time with the Keys of Solomon as well) didn’t think they were doing the Devil’s bidding. In fact, you use the name of God and Jesus to get the demon to work for you. They didn’t think of it as an un-Christian act at all to try and magically conjure demons to get their help. Try telling that to a fundamentalist today!

The book The Lesser Key of Solomon was compiled in the Seventeenth Century from a variety of earlier sources and is a grimoire (book of magic spells) that names all of the demons that were enslaved and put to work by the Great Solomon. The 62nd demon on the list is Valak, who looks like a beautiful cherub riding around on a two-headed dragon and his specialty is finding lost treasures. He’s the demon that you want to conjure when you want to go dowsing. He also can help you find snakes, which sounds like a fun field trip.

Valak, The President of Hell

So, is he an evil nun? Nope. They just used the name because it had a cool origin and they were looking for some kind of narrative device to tie the characters of the Warrens to The Amityville Horror and the Enfield Poltergeist (and their connections to both of those cases were tenuous at best in real life as well.) So ancient Solomonic demons it is! However, The Nun director Corin Hardy did have his own ghost experience on the set of the film. 

While the YouTube video says it’s crazy, it’s actually kind of believable. They shot parts of the film in an old Romanian fortress called Corvin Castle, it’s actually in Transylvania, and tourists are told that the Vlad the Impaler was  imprisoned there for seven years (but they’re not quite sure if that’s true or not.) Either way, it’s been investigated by Most Haunted as well as the bro-st hunters themselves, Ghost Adventures. So, it’s no surprise that this is the place Corin Hardy would have had his story.

As he tells it, they were shooting in a very dark maze-like part of the fortress  and here’s how he puts it

The sequence was called the “Corridor of Crosses”, a 200-foot long corridor… deep, dark, dank, dripping wet and to get to it you go down into it like a T-Junction.

Where I was situated I had to be out of camera shot and the camera is going up and down this corridor. I was situated in one of these cells and
it was literally a door to a corridor to a pitch black room.  There was crew, but the only light down there is the light we bring, very moody and atmospheric. There’s crosses hanging all through it, ya know, and there’s a lot of mist. There’s a mixture of what we’ve brought but it’s also all based in reality.


When I go into the room I see these two guys from the crew, probably sound department sitting a little further back in the dark. I said hi and I think they must be Romanian, because we have crew members from different countries that don’t always speak (the language). I was focused on the film and turn my back, and sat with my back to these two guys. I’m watching the monitors and we were running the takes and it was complex shot with the camera, we had to spiral and track and it took awhile.

Half an hour later I’ve been sitting in this darkness with these two guys there and I finally got the shot. You know when you do get the take, you get up and go “Oh, $%^&ing  great!”, ya know? And I got up and I turn to the two men, “Oh, did you see that?” And then I turned around and there was just no one in the room and there hadn’t been anyone in there at all. There’s no where they could have come out.

I’m sitting here, the room is behind me, and the door just here (points in front of him) and I seen them on the way in and felt that they were there the whole time.

Corin Hardy, from his Comic-Con interview with CinemaBlend July 2017

However, Solomon ties another evil nun story together from the mid 1600s. A whole convent of nuns was supposedly possessed by demons and the featured public exorcisms with hundreds of people in the audience. It was claimed that the nuns were perverted by Father Urban Grandier, who made a pact with the Devil for the power to take sexual advantage of the nuns. One of the pieces of evidence that was eventually presented at his trial was the pact Grandier made with the devil, that was stolen from the Devil’s collection of contracts and delivered to the court by the demon Asmodeus,  number thirty-two in The Lesser Key of Solomon, and famously tricked by the king into helping build that First Temple of Jerusalem. 

One of the nuns claimed to be possessed directly by him, because he was often associated in Christian theology as the demon who represents human lust. And that’s exactly what they were accusing Father Grandier of. He was eventually burned at the stake and his story was told in Aldous Huxley’s book, The Devils of Loudon, that was made into a scandalous (for the early 70s film, The Devils).

For this week’s song, we were inspired by those badass grimoires from the Middle Ages. Naming demons isn’t just for Dungeons & Dragons everybody, people believed in this stuff. But when you conjure demons baby, you play with fire!

I evoke the lord of the wind
The lesser key of Solomon
I conjure to exist
grimoire of the demonologist.

And when you play with fire
we all know
how it goes

When you walk on the highwire
watch your toes
you’re so close
or be left a ghost

I call to life the myth
to feel the dark kiss of Lilith
I call from across the Styx
the sweet revenge of Asmodeus.

And when you play with fire
we all know
how it goes

When you walk on the highwire
watch your toes
you’re so close
or be left a ghost

210 – The Bray Road Beast: Hunting Small Town Monsters with Seth Breedlove

Back when we talked to Lyle Blackburn in episode 180, he mentioned that the next Small Town Monsters project would be filming in Wisconsin (yes, little old Wisconsin!) and would be featuring the strange bipedal canine sightings in the southeastern part of our state in the early 90s, made popular by our friend Linda Godfrey‘s book, The Beast of Bray Road. Fast forward to now and the first trailer for the movie. The Bray Road Beast is out!

Filmmaker Seth Breedlove is the creative powerhouse behind the Small Town Monsters film series. Small Town Monsters is an independent film series exploring lost and bizarre history around the United States. They’ve covered everything from The Mothman of Point Pleasant to the Boggy Creek Monster, and now they’re tackling our hometown werewolf, a story that I remember fondly from the the local news when I was in high school. (Hey, and check it out, the story even made it to Inside Edition!)

In this episode, Seth talks to us about:

  • His inspiration to start the Small Town Monsters series
  • Why he thinks that Bigfoot is a lost species of ape (if Bigfoot exists…)
  • The most interesting thing he uncovered about the Mothman of Point Pleasant
  • Treating the Beast of Bray Road like a Hammer Horror Movie (we miss you, Christopher Lee!)
  • The weirdest (paranormal?) thing that happened to him on location while they were filming
  • Possible relationships of the beast to Skinwalker Ranch and Native American legends
  • How the themes of the Bray Road Beast turned darker after on particular interview changed his initial perspective into something a lot scarier

You can find all of Seth Breedlove’s Small Town Monsters series on their website, www.smalltownmonsters.com. If you’ve got Amazon Prime, you can watch some of the films right now! But why don’t you get psyched up by listening to our interview with Seth Breedlove first!

Wendy and I made a pilgrimage to Bray Road in episode 52 and we recorded our trip!

For this week’s song, we were inspired by the patience of monster and ghost hunters. You travel and stay out all night and usually wind up coming home without a shred of evidence. But no matter what, it’s fun to explore the mysteries of the universe, even if you don’t bring home a trophy very often.  In this track, “Hunting Monsters”, a woman thinks that her man might be up to no good because he says he’s looking for cryptids, but always comes home empty-handed.

When you go fishing
you get wet
when you go drinking
you get drunk
When my man comes back
from where he’s been
it’s like he ain’t got nothing done.
it’s like he ain’t had any fun

I keep looking out my window
and I lay on the bed alone
Because my baby says he’s hunting monsters
but he ain’t never brought one home.

I’ve looked for lipstick
on his lapel
I looked for perfume
on his shirt
but he ain’t been to the gin mill
I know he ain’t out chasing skirts
He looks at footprints in the dirt

I keep looking out my window
and I lay on the bed alone
Because my baby says he’s hunting monsters
but he ain’t never brought one home.
Oh my old man says he’s hunting monsters
but he ain’t never
he ain’t never brought one home.


209 – Between Love And Hate: The Devil Is Real with John Eagan

Before John Eagan had a paranormal experience, he was most famous for writing a how-to book on how to pick up ladies in a nightclub. That book, How to Pick Up Beautiful Women in Nightclubs or Any Other Place: Secrets Every Man Should Know got John onto talk shows all over the country in 1993, from Howard Stern to Geraldo.

And in this day and age of The Game, (Neil Strauss’ work on picking up ladies) where romance is achieved through insults (“negging”) and wearing outrageous clothing (“peacocking”), John Eagan’s advice to wear clean clothes and how to quickly get over your fear of rejections seems quaint and old-school. The fact that his book is less about getting laid and more about creating relationships makes John’s advice seem of a different era.

And that’s the point, John Eagan thinks that the world of this era is changing to something dangerous and he was given a warning from the depths of Hell itself. That’s why he’s written a new book, Between Love and Hate: The Devil Is Real. John was born a nice Catholic boy in New York City and moved to New Jersey as a young man.

He got married, had a family, became a special education teacher and was a bartender on the side. It was in that bar is where he interviewed the thousands of ladies that would form the basis for his romance self-help book, but it’s also where he met many lost souls. People who would pass away and John promised that he would pray for their souls to go to Heaven because they didn’t have anyone else who would.

John Eagan and his wife and the bust of Jesus he made from recycled candles

And it’s because of those daily prayers for wayward souls that John thinks that he might have caught the attention of an entity from Hell, a creature who subsists on perverting humans to do evil things and to swallow their souls for eternity. That’s what his experience entails and John gives us all the gruesome details of the Poltergeist-like experiences in his home that were witnessed by his wife and son, and how it culminated in the appearance of a demon surrounded by blue flames in his own home.

The demon in blue fire that came to John and said “No More”

For the song this week, we wanted to go with the New Jersey-theme and bust out a track inspired by the one of the greatest horror-punk bands of all,    The Misfits. So, here’s a Sunspot take on a Misfits track, based on John Eagan’s paranormal experience with a quote directly from the demon itself, “No More” 

A world of souls under attack
the Gerasene demoniac

unclean
obscene

You get caught between love and hate
we’re tempting you to seal your fate

straight down to Hell
the infidel

Swallow your soul, the Devil’s ready,
My name is Legion for we are many

I cry no more

You don’t need to be possessed.
to be banned from all the blessed

I’ve got a fever
for the unbeliever

All the dybbuks and the demons
love to watch you die screaming

in a useless prayer
to a god that doesn’t care

Swallow your soul, the Devil’s ready,
My name is Legion for we are many

I cry no more

A world of souls under attack
the Gerasene demoniac

unclean
obscene

You get caught between love and hate
we’re tempting you to seal your fate

straight down to Hell
the infidel

Swallow your soul, the Devil’s ready,
My name is Legion for we are many

I cry no more
I cry no more
I cry no more
I cry no more

until I watch you die screaming

I cry no more



208 – State Fair of the Strange: Sideshows, Weird Foods, and The Minnesota Iceman

We’ve been regular performers at the Wisconsin State Fair for the last eight years and have grown to love the goofy mix of agricultural excellence, carny spectacle, and sheer gluttony that comes with the celebration of all things Wisconsin. They even have a complete list of all the foods “on a stick” that you can enjoy.

Here’s a video of our first show at the State Fair (which is also the first place I ever performed Karaoke – “Born To Be Wild” if you must know…)

And the thing is, many of the things to do at the State Fair are innocent and fun, I mean just look at the intro to Rogers & Hammerstein’s State Fair musical (that Wendy still can remember all the words to!)

But the State Fair has always had a lot of weirdness to it. First of all, it’s a place where people make giant things just for the Hell of it. In Wisconsin, we just made the world’s largest cream puff that’s three and a half feet long and weighs over 125 pounds. Why? Why the Hell not?!

But it’s also the longtime home of the sideshow, there used to be over a hundred traveling sideshows touring American State Fairs in the 1950s and 60s and there even was a town where the sideshow performers lived during the Winter (Gibtown, Florida, where The X-Files got the inspiration for their Season 2 classic, “Humbug”.)

Jim Rose and the Geek

The sideshows were still around when I went to the fair as a kid, but you’re not going to find shows that feature genetic abnormalities anymore. Some states have passed laws against exploring people with deformities and even though sideshows may not have been as exploitative as we think, there’s still an icky aftertaste in gawking at other human beings that we feel today. (At least in person, here’s a great article from Variety that compares modern reality TV to the old-time sideshow and well… see if you can tell the difference.)

But one of the traveling exhibits that I wished I would have seen as a kid is  the “Minnesota Iceman”. Was it the corpse of the famous “Missing Link” that traveled the country? Was it the last living Neanderthal?

Found in Wisconsin… of course!

Well, there’s lots of conflicting stories when it comes to the Iceman and we go over them in the episode. The FBI and the Smithsonian even get involved.  Wendy and I finally saw him in March when we were down at SXSW and made a visit to The Museum of the Weird in Austin. You can hear our verdict in the podcast.

In this episode you’ll:

  • Learn what Abe Lincoln was up to at the 1959 Wisconsin State Fair
  • Be regaled by the strange history of The Minnesota Iceman
  • learn about the ghostly specters that haunt the Minnesota State Fairgrounds
  • understand our own famous Wisconsin cryptid hoax, The Hodag
  • Hear about the weirdest foods at State Fairs across America
  • Finally get to understand what a “Buckeye” is
For this week’s song, I thought it would be sweet if I tried to sing as many of the foods that I could rhyme that are served at the Wisconsin State Fair “on a stick”. We make fun of the unhealthy foods you can devour at festivals and sometimes I hear people bemoaning the culture of deep frying and mobile cuisine. Not me, though. There is something uniquely and wonderfully American about all of it. There are wonders to see and things to explore. We’re the descendants of the people who weren’t satisfied with what they had and they needed to move to create a better life. That’s ingrained in our culture and sometimes we have to walk when we eat, dammit. “Life On A Stick” isn’t as bad at all.
It’s All-American like Apple pie,
waving to the fire trucks on the Fourth of July.
Time keeps moving on,
you don’t let it pass you by,
you take a big bite out of it.
You keep on walking, that’s the trick,
and know that life can be beautiful
on a stick.
They’ve got
ants and bacon
tator tots
BBQ pork chop
beer battered cheddar sausage
corn dogs and cake pops
candy apples caramel apples
cheese balls and shish ka bob
coconut shrimp and boneless chicken wings
bacon wrapped pork that’s pig inside a pig
They’ve got
colby cheese and
cookie dough
a spiral cut potato
dill pickles, crab cakes
fish and chips, donut holes
Super Dog, Twisted Dog,
Tijuana Bacon Dog
Pizza in a waffle,
meatballs and Milky Ways,
a snickers and a twinkie,
you’ll be in the john for days.
It’s All-American like Apple pie,
waving to the fire trucks on the Fourth of July.
The time keeps moving on,
you don’t let it pass you by,
you take a big bite out of it
You keep on walking, that’s the trick,
and know that life can be beautiful
on a stick.
They’ve got
shrimp tempura
battered shark
cotton candy
ice cream bars
olives, stuffing,
root beer pops
steak and egg,
Pretzel brats
S’mores, sliders, deep friend fruit,
scotch eggs, french onion soup
Wisconsin Grilled Cheese or a Swiss & Rye,
Turducken on a stick to make you think you’re gonna die
They’ve got
Fried Elvis, Fat Elvis,
Salad and Sheboygan brats
cream cheese and spaghetti
bacon-wrapped chestnuts,
Door County Cherry Pie,
Mac & Cheese and lug nuts
Chocolate covered ‘nanas, peanut butter jelly,
flaming hot corn cobs rumblin in your belly
It’s All-American like Apple pie,
waving to the fire trucks on the Fourth of July.
Well time keeps moving on,
you don’t let it pass you by,
you take a big bite out of it
You keep on walking, that’s the trick,
and know that life can be beautiful
on a stick.