Tag Archives: doppleganger

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


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


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?

148 – UFOs: Reframing The Debate Part 1 with Robbie Graham and Mike Clelland

Last time we talked with Robbie Graham, he had just released Silver Screen Saucers, a brilliant tome on how Hollywood and UFOlogy have influenced each other over the past 70 years. In the meantime, Robbie’s star has quickly risen in the UFO field (or is just the planet Venus?) thanks to his thorough research and an academic approach.

His latest endeavor, UFOs: Reframing The Debate is a collection of essays written by some of the greatest modern UFO researchers, bloggers, and even skeptics. It features some of our favorite former See You On The Other Side guests like Joshua Cutchin and Ryan Sprague as well as great podcaster Micah Hanks, and even Canada’s leading “UFO guy, eh” Chris Rutkowski.

With thirteen (of course!) essays, there is plenty to agree with, disagree with, things to make you mad, things to make you think, and lots to learn.

One of the contributors to the book, Mike Clelland, is the blogger behind Hidden Experiences and the author of The Messengers: Owls, Synchronicity, and The UFO Abductee. He’s not only a researcher into the field, he’s an experiencer as well and he and Robbie both join the discussion (along with Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts) as we do some deep diving into why we need to rethink everything we think we know about the UFO phenomenon.

That’s one of the reasons we wanted to split this podcast up. It seemed like the conversation naturally moved halfway through and we wanted to make sure that we gave each topic the thought space that they deserved. The first thing for me that changed the way I feel about UFOs was the concept of “high strangeness”.

No, high strangeness isn’t the lost Cheech & Chong movie, it’s a phrase from the great UFO researcher and Project Blue Book leader, Dr. J. Allen Hynek. He used it to describe the absurd and surreal nature of the phenomenon. And people use that term now to describe how once they’ve seen a UFO, their lives change and they start seeing weird stuff in their life all the time. Mike Clelland illustrates the point with several of his stories, as he has been collecting them for years on his blog, as well as having a few experiences of his own (like seeing gray aliens outside his window, missing time as a teenager, etc…)

You see a UFO, then you might see Bigfoot, then you might start experiencing poltergeist activity. It’s like that original sighting opens the door to everything paranormal. But why would that be?

I always thought the people who have more than one kind of experience made them sound even more unbelievable, ya know? The higher the number of experiences, the higher the chance of crazy. But so many people report more than just the UFO sighting. As Mike says in his essay:

Life, death, sex, dreams,spirituality, psychic visions, genetics, expanded consciousness, mind-control, channelling,mysticism, miraculous healings, out-of-body experiences, hybrid children, personal transformation, powerful synchronicity, portals in the backyard, distorted time, telepathy,prophetic visions, trauma, ecstasy, and magic. It’s as if our brains just aren’t big enough todeal with the overload of so much weirdness.

And that made me reconsider my assumptions on aliens, that they’re just interplanetary travelers (albeit with a taste for experimenting on the wildlife) and that it’s purely a physical materialist happening, something we can understand with our current models of the universe. But I’m stuck in the 90s X-Files/Independence Day conspiracy mode of thinking, when the new evidence points to what might be an even weirder explanation, almost like Twin Peaks. Indeed, the owls might not be what they seem. (And the Richard Jones evil doppelgänger story from Kansas last week certainly made me think of the denizens of The Black Lodge!)

But that’s the idea of the book, to challenge your former beliefs, to find room in the UFO tent for perspectives ranging from materialist to spiritual to hallucinatory to anywhere in between. We’re talking about a field where even the best evidence is scoffed at (and we’ll be talking about the importance of skepticism in Part 2 next week) so to advance the study of UFOs we’re going to have to be ready to embrace opposing points of view something too often avoided in the Internet Age, because a friendly perspective, the easy path, is only a click away.

Click here to grab UFOs: Reframing The Debate new book on Amazon.

Now after seventy years of flying saucers, to change people’s entrenched beliefs on the weirdness that we’re seeing in the skies is no easy task, you might say it’s “Sisyphean”, the mythical Greek King who was damned to eternally roll a boulder up a hill as a punishment for his defiance of the gods (he was always tricking them!) So, we thought that our Sunspot track, “Sisyphus’ Rock” might be the perfect capper to the first part of our epic discussion.

Like Sisyphus and his rock,
I roll our love up a great hill.
Hoping for a chance to reach the summit.
And as the gods of thunder bowl,
I watch the light show in the sky.
But you are frozen, terrified, and weakened.

I know the reasons for your actions.
I know you’ll answer for your tears.
But who will ever be my rock?
when you decide you’re on your own,
and I still draw you rainbows in the night.

I would steal fire from the gods,
if I thought it’d make you smile.
I’d sacrifice my liver for your heart.
Look out in Hades down below,
because I’ll not look back this time.
Now I’m armed with Schwarzenegger, two gats, and a nine.

You’re the Achilles’ Heel of my soul.
Yours is the only pain I know.
But little angel don’t you fear,
when you felt me you fell from grace.
But we are all Immortals in the end.

I will decline Pandora’s Box,
but I think I’ll see what’s in yours.
I’m clawing for the hope that’s at the bottom.
I’ll fight off snakes on Gorgons’ heads,
and I’ll take thunderbolts for you.
But please don’t leave my whispers to myself.

But angel don’t you ever fear,
when you felt me you fell from grace.
But we are all Immortals in the end.

145 – Twin Peaks: The Paranormal Influence Underneath TV’s Weirdest Show

In April of 1990, I was 13 years old. I remember very well watching the debut of the pilot of Twin Peaks on that Sunday night (along with 35 million other people) and I didn’t miss an episode after that. I loved the quirky characters, the murder mystery, and the weird dreams, but most of all, I enjoyed spending time in a place where magic was real, ancient demons stalked the Earth, logs could send psychic messages, and we could visit other dimensions in our dreams. My father and I were diehards who watched until the bitter end, upset about the cliffhangers that it left dangling at the second season’s conclusion.


I went into Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me thinking that we’d get a resolution, excited to find out what happened the fate of Audrey from the bank explosion and Cooper in the Black Lodge. I didn’t really care what happened to James, because well, James’ weird love triangle shenanigans were boring by the end of the second season. The movie was all the weirdness of the TV show with little of the comedy and the sex and violence amped up. While I didn’t get the answers I craved, I loved going back into that world.

After the movie failed at the box office and David Lynch seemed to be bitter, I figured that was it. The bad guys won, Laura Palmer’s soul was trapped in the Red Room, and no one would ever know why David Bowie showed up as a ghost or what Jacques Renault meant when he called himself “The Great Went”. I figured it would just be a wonderful bit of nostalgia when I think about junior high. It was my favorite show at the time we were starting our rock band, when I was growing my hair long for the first time, and when I was hitting adolescence head on.

So, I was surprised as everyone else when the revival was announced. I couldn’t wait to go back. I thought that the closest thing we ever were going to get toa  reunion was when Big Ed and Nadine runiting as the bad guys in The People Under The Stairs.


I’m the kind of fan who falls in love the mythology of a fictional universe. My favorite X-Files episodes weren’t the funny standalones, I wanted to know about the alien invasion conspiracy. I cared about the Dharma Initiative in LOST and cared about the answers they promised us. I want to know the history of the conflict between the Klingons and the Federation, I want to lose myself in the universe.

I knew that David Lynch was weird and I was down with that, but it took me until Lost Highway to appreciate his dream logic and to no longer care about coherence in the narrative (and trust me, if you’ve seen any of the Twin Peaks revival, you’ll quickly understand that coherence is the first thing out the window.) But in Twin Peaks, the story isn’t as important as the feeling you get when you hang out there. Sure, the quirky characters are fun and their obssession with coffee, apple pie, and smoking (really, that was probably the last major network series where half the characters unapologetically smoke cigarettes), but it was the world they lived in where you just wanted to spend more time.

The show was artistically fearless years before our current Golden Age of TV, it could be hilarious when it wanted to be, tedious and awkward when it wanted, the camera shots alone could evoke fear and dread, but also intense beauty and high strangeness. There’s a scene in Fire Walk With Me that is easily the top three most terrifying things I’ve ever seen in a visual work. Twin Peaks made me feel things like nothing else I’d ever seen on TV.  And that’s why I love going back.

While nominally a murder mystery and a soap opera parody and a meditation on how Small Town America is often hiding a seedy dark and corrupt underbelly, Twin Peaks is also a cornucopia of otherworldly influences. In this discussion, we try to hit as many as we can and how the real-life paranormal tales  impacted the story of TV’s weirdest show.

While we finish the episode with a little musical homage to Angelo Badlamenti’s incredible Twin Peaks soundtrack, we kicked off the show with discussing the untimely death of Chris Cornell who was certainly a huge influence on our generation. I had first heard Soundgarden’s “Loud Love” in 1990 around the same time I was watching Twin Peaks and of course became a huge fan with Badmotorfinger (in fact, I can’t say how often I’ve thought on a particularly rough hangover day that “I’m looking California and feeling Minnesota”.) We talk a bit about Cornell’s amazing voice, but also how eerie it was that Soundgarden covered Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time Of Dying” (which itself was Zep’s attempt at updating an old Gospel song) at their last show before the singer tragically took his own life.