Tag Archives: RIP

193 – Long Live The King of Nye: Remembering Art Bell

  Coast to Coast AM is the grandaddy of all paranormal talk shows. It is the original and it’s a big reason why a show like See You On The Other Side exists.  Its founder and greatest host, Art Bell passed away on Friday the 13th. Art Bell wasn’t just a talk show host, he singlehandedly took the discussion of weird topics from the fringe of the airwaves to front and center every night. Talking about ghosts used to be just for Halloween, talking about UFOs would be reserved for science fiction tie-ins or special events. Art Bell didn’t just have a national talk show dealing with alternative histories, life on other planets, psychic powers, and all the paranormal topics that we love, he made it the second most popular talk show in the United States(!)

Art Bell
Art Bell with his eyes to the skies

In the 90s, Art Bell helped the paranormal go mainstream.  Over 10 million listeners tuned in to Coast to Coast AM at its most popular and all of us here at See You On The Other Side listened faithfully. Art Bell was the soundtrack to hundreds of my dreams (and nightmares) as I would always put the radio on as I went to bed.  In the days right before the emergence of the Internet, Coast to Coast AM provided a community and an outlet for fringe beliefs and strange encounters.  This wasn’t a convention or a users group meetup or a small BBS in your town, this was paranormal discussion on your radio every single night of the week, all across the country.

Art Bell’s deep voice was made for radio and his demeanor of patience and acceptance even while dealing with the most whacked out callers seemed custom-made for his topics. Art kept his calm no matter what, challenging his guests when they went too far, but at the same time never treating them dismissively.

That might have been his greatest strength and the reason why he is so beloved in the community. That balance between healthy skepticism and credulity is what made him the perfect host. The paranormal is a tricky topic. You’re dealing with things that many people don’t believe in and will treat you as if you’re crazy if you do. It’s not an easy thing to talk about with respect to both sides, reality and the experiencer. Art Bell was able to straddle that line with a grace that no one else has been able to match since.

art bell
Art Bell in a press photo taken at the height of Coast to Coast AM’s popularity in the 90s

Art Bell could make you feel welcome no matter what. Coming up in the late 80s, it was an era of shock jocks and confrontational hosts. It is a testament to the man that his show had the most outrageous topics, but had the most civil conversations.  He created a community and a format that is still strong decades later, even after he retired. Coast To Coast AM still runs every night and has over 2.75 million listeners a week.

In this episode of the podcast, Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts, Wendy Lynn, and I discuss the impact that Art had on our lives. Wendy and I used to listen to him in our band van as we drove in the middle of the night, excited that we could pick up the signal and had something fun to help keep us awake. Allison was a Coast to Coast insider from almost the beginning and would let me know when the best guests were going to be on. Allison heard it live when the most famous call was placed. This “Area 51 employee” called in to warn the rest of the world about the disasters that were coming. His frantic, terrified voice and the fact that the satellite uplink broke in the middle of the call made for some legendary conspiracy discussions in the late 90s.

We remember the great Art Bell in this episode, from our favorite guests to his untimely and mysterious retirements, from his greatest calls to the time that I almost got through to tell my own story . Thank you for the memories, Art, and thank you for setting the stage for all of us.

They still do it to this day on Coast to Coast, “Open Line Fridays”. They were (and are) some of the most fun (and most frustrating) episodes  of the show. It’s an all-night free-for-all call in where they might have a “Vampire” hotline, which is a line dedicated to anyone who might be a vampire, that they can call in. Or it could be “alien abductees” or people who think that they’re “The Anti-Christ”, or any number of awesome paranormal propositions. You never knew what you were going to hear when they opened it up to the community on Fridays.

That’s what this week’s song is about. We’re dedicating this special tribute song to Art Bell and the power of the community that he created. It was always ridiculous fun when the calls would come in and you never knew what you were going to hear when Art would say you’re “On The Line”.

Somewhere in the desert
a lonely trailer stands
well the wizard of the air sits there
with a microphone in his hand
strange lights in the distance
and mystery on the lips
destination unknown
we’re going live without a script

And who knows crazy things we’ll hear today?

It don’t matter if you’re a liar
or an angel or a vampire
we’ll you’re preaching to the choir
in the dark of the night
Just don’t waste our time
when you’re on the line

Maybe you’re ex-CIA
maybe you worked Area 51
We never knew who would call in,
all we knew is it’d be fun

And somewhere in the desert
there’s still a voice going through the night
and as the clock strikes twelve, you can almost hear
West of the Rockies you’re on the line.

And who knows crazy things we’ll hear today?

It don’t matter if you’re a liar
or an angel or a vampire
we’ll you’re preaching to the choir
in the dark of the night

It don’t matter if you’re a liar
or an angel or a vampire
we’ll you’re preaching to the choir
in the dark of the night
Just don’t waste our time
when you’re on the line
when you’re on the line
when you’re on the line

Was Glenn Frey A Secret Satanist?

The Heat Is Off as another Classic Rock hero passed over to the other side this week. Glenn Frey, most famous as the founder of the Eagles, the California Country-Rock powerhouse that provided the soundtrack of much of the 1970s and much of the income for the Golden State’s cocaine dealers , died on Monday January 18th. I’ve been on record saying that “Hotel California” is the song that made me want to play guitar and Glenn Frey was the lyricist who gave us those wonderfully cryptic lyrics. And with imagery that includes trying to “kill the beast” and a requests for wine (a liquid with lots of religious significance!), is the Eagles’ most famous track really about Satan?

Well, that was an urban legend going around in the Satanic Panic 80s. In fact, there was a great article in the now-defunct Milwaukee Sentinel (and media consolidation is just as scary as anything we talk about on this site) about the Good Reverend Paul Risley who held a rally in Racine, Wisconsin in September of 1982, where 900 people(!) came out to see him tell examples of rock n’ rollers purposely leading their fans to the Devil.

Here’s an excerpt from the newspaper article:

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 5.34.17 PM

My favorite part is that there were some pro-Rock youths that showed up to shout the Reverend down and one of them even got arrested for disorderly conduct. Notice that they spell Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey’s name wrong, so I guess the Sentinel didn’t have much of a copy editor in 1982.

But is the song really about the place where the Satanic Bible was written? Is the Church of Satan really registered as “Hotel California” for tax purposes? Are the frickin’ Eagles devil worshipers?!

Here’s a guy that seems to think so, even as late as 2014 and even provides us with  detailed analysis of the lyrics. And with quotes like “when you sell your soul to the devil for fame in music, he also wants you to openly show signs of it” and “So it looks like the Eagles are singing this for the antichrist”, you know you have to check that article out.

Perhaps the example that’s most widely used of this song being dedicated to the Devil is that the inside cover of the album has a creepy guy looking over everyone and it’s supposed to be Anton LaVey, who created the modern Church of Satany4auurjefid2vgldnxib

Here it is blown up, and I guess it might look like a bald guy with a goatee, but c’mon, that’s really really subtle.


Anyway, Snopes does a wonderful job of debunking the entire urban legend. “Anton LaVey” is really a woman who was hired for the photo shoot, and it was at the Beverly Hills Hotel, not some Satanic temple. This song is really just about the West Coast music industry in the 1970s. These guys were on the top of the world and living it up in the most decadent era since Ancient Rome with the world, women, money, drugs, and anything that they wanted at their fingertips.

“Her mind is Tiffany-twisted” is about the famous jewelry retailer, the spirit of 1969  is the death of the idealism of the hippie counterculture, “you can check out anytime but you can never leave” is about addiction, and the whole song is about the gaping maw of music celebrity that was engulfing the band as they were nearing the peak of their popularity.

The funny thing is that it’s the Eagles. If it was Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin, I get it. Those guys used occult imagery and had a dark hard rock sound. But the Eagles didn’t use that kind of imagery or sing dark music. Their songs were catchy and fun. They were world-class hedonists, but Satanists? Hardly!

RIP Glenn Frey, thanks for one of my favorite songs and I hope I’m right and that you’re on your way upstairs right now.

RIP Angus Scrimm – The Tall Man and Phantasm’s Paranormal Influences

Actor Angus Scrimm passed away yesterday at the age of 89. If you’re a horror fan, then you’ll remember him as the evil undertaker, The Tall Man, from the Phantasm film series (the one with the flying silver balls that stick in people’s heads.) Number one, what an awesome stage name (he was originally born Lawrence Rory Guy). Number two, he was the one guy in the Phantasm movies that looked like he was some kind of an actor in real life. You can see why he was such a memorable presence in this supercut of his greatest moments from the highlights of the franchise (namely Phantasm 1 and 2).

Phantasm was mostly recently making the sci-fi news rounds because Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams mentioned how much that he loves the movie and that he created one of the characters (Captain Phasma) as an homage to the film, the character even wears a special reflective mirrored armor like the scary balls that fly through the air in Phantasm. Abrams also gave Scrimm a recurring role in his TV show, Alias, because he was a fan of the actor.

Not that the other characters and actors in Phantasm weren’t memorable and  didn’t give it their best shot. Especially Reggie Bannister, you just gotta love that guy. I still use the phrase “Hot as love” sometimes when I’m done playing a song.

Angus Scrimm’s late in life success in the horror genre was preceded by a long career in entertainment journalism as well as being a go-to guy for writing liner notes on the insides of records – which was a thing back in the day when people used to buy albums, and he even won a Grammy for his work in the music industry!)

I always heard that he was a nice guy at horror conventions and his dedication to the character even as the budgets of the Phantasm sequels started getting less and less. So, I’m raising a glass to a life well lived.

I celebrated my eighteenth birthday with my first meal as a full vegetarian, a trip to the adult book store (who knew that Al Bundy’s favorite magazine was a real thing?), and a viewing of Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, so the series has always been close to my heart. My friends and I were big fans of the series in high school because we appreciated Reggie’s dirty innuendos, the gross-out horror of the flying balls killing people, the surreality of the filmmaking, and the mashup of (spoilers for a 37-year old movie) beings from another dimension that enslave human souls after we die.

The Tall Man’s most memorable quote besides bellowing “Boyyyyyyyy!” is “You think when you die, you go to heaven. You come to us!” which is a special kind of terror. You grow up your whole life thinking that when you die, you go to a  “better place” (unless you’re a Calvinist that just believes most people are going to Hell anyway). But Phantasm introduced to me the idea that maybe the afterlife wasn’t wonderful at all, that there is something worse than death, a place you could never escape where you were turned into a zombie Jawa slave for eternity.  A reimagining of Hell where The Tall Man took the place of Lucifer and owned you.

Now, that’s some scary business right there and in some of the world’s earliest cultures, the Afterlife isn’t fun at all. In fact, if you’ve ever studied the Epic of Gilgamesh (the world’s first action hero!) you’ll know that death to the ancient Sumerians meant unpleasantness for the rest of eternity. They feared the dead who “live in darkness, eat clay, and are clothed like birds with wings” and would eat the living if they escaped the Underworld.

In Maori culture in New Zealand, the bodies of the recently deceased needed to be brought back to their families immediately and rituals performed or the spirits might become angry and decide to bring more family members to the other side. 

So, while there might be an evolutionary advantage to believing in the afterlife, it doesn’t mean that we necessarily believe in a Heaven filled with naked angels strumming on harps, but also that Hell could be programmed into our primordial belief systems and it’s that antediluvian angst that Phantasm excels at accessing. In the world of the film, there is no “happily ever after”, The Tall Man is coming from another dimension to enslave the souls of the Earth and the main characters have to figure out how to stop him.


But interestingly enough, Whitley Strieber’s sequel to his book Communion (who in my opinion has influenced our modern views ideas of aliens more than any other creator) was called Transformation, which came out in 1988, the same year as Phantasm II. The main idea of Transformation was that the aliens that he claimed to have been abducted by all his life in Communion, were here in a spiritual capacity and not just a scientific experiment (and I don’t know if that would have been a relief to South Park‘s Eric Cartman or not…)

But in Transformation, the aliens are here and visiting us to help recycle our souls, which starts blending two formerly very different strains of paranormal belief into one (albeit Mormonism and Scientology have been doing this for a longer period of time, but Transformation is really when I got my first taste of it.) This mixture of aliens and an inescapable afterlife of servitude is what makes Phantasm such an mindtrick and it was all brought to life in such effective terror by the performance of Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man. Thanks Lawrence Rory Guy, for the awe-inspiring personification of a perfectly horrifying, yet ancient, idea.