266 – MOMO: Tracking Down The Missouri Monster with Seth Breedlove

Small Towns Monsters filmmaker Seth Breedlove has been bringing to life they mysterious cryptids from America’s out-of-the-way locations. We’ve already talked to him about The Beast of Bray Road as well as the strange flying beasts of Illinois and now he’s returning with another tale of large hairy beast sightings from the 1970s, Momo (which is a cute name for Missouri Monster).

But while Momo is a cute name, what people saw in the summers of 1971 and 1972 in Louisiana, Missouri, was anything but sweet and friendly. Louisiana is a sleepy Mississippi River town of less than four thousand people that straddles the border with Illinois in the northeastern part of Missouri. So when two girls reported seeing a seven-foot tall furry beast whose face was covered by hair and was accompanied by a foul stench that cornered them in their car and ate their peanut butter sandwich before it disappeared back into the wilderness, it caught people’s attention.

It was a year later though, when the story would capture the nation’s attention after three children saw the monster by a riverbed holding a dead dog that set off a flurry of monster sightings, huge tracks in the dirt, and lights in the sky. They told their father, Edgar Harrison, and he says that he saw two of the creatures himself, “almost like a human except it had black hair all over it.” Eventually the sheriff even organized a posse to look for the creature while Harrison camped out for 21 straight days to look for the beast. Alas, no creature was every capture, alive or on film, but some strange tracks were found (even though one famous footprint was admitted to be a hoax by one of the perpetrators.)

Edgar Harrison’s children still stand by what they saw in that summer of 1972, and Edgar is the closest thing to a protagonist in Momo: The Missouri Monster‘s film-within-a-film recreations. Seth and his team pretend their re-enactments are from a long-lost 1970s Z-grade horror film about the monster that is rediscovered for the documentary and cowboy cryptozoologist Lyle Blackburn is the horror host who leads you through the movie.

Lyle Blackburn talking about Momo

And Lyle (who has also been on the podcast) is no stranger to Momo himself, he wrote a book about the creature earlier this year and has his own fascination with the Missouri Monster.

This is probably the most fun of the Small Town Monsters series because while it takes the evidence seriously, and you can see that in the interviews with the local historians and townsfolk, they don’t take themselves too seriously. They embrace the 1970s grindhouse vibe with the film-within-the-film, but when it comes to the actual characters, they respect the humans who had to deal with the experiences and the aftermath of it.

That’s something that Seth gets into in the interview, how important it was to him to try and honor the experiencers while finding a novel way to tell the stories. If you haven’t seen Momo: The Missouri Monster yet, then this is an insteresting episode about paranormal storytelling, but if you have seen it, think of it like a special features interview with the director.

And in this episode and our conversation with Seth Breedlove about Momo: The Missouri Monster, we go over:

  • The timeline of the Momo sightings
  • How to properly create the 70s atmosphere in the movie
  • The town of Louisiana today and how they feel about the sightings
  • The recurring themes that come up in the Small Town Monsters series and what has tied them together for the filmmakers
  • The possibliity that Momo might have been an alien instead of a cryptid
  • How Allison (my sister) and I, who were superfans of Chicago ghost hunting legend, Richard Crowe, completely missed that he was the one who wrote the seminal news article about the creature in the first place for Fate magazine

You can watch Momo: The Missouri Monster right now by renting it from Amazon or you can purchase the DVD from the Small Town Monsters shop.

For this week’s song, we wanted to evoke the 1970s just like Seth’s movie did, so we went for a classic style Hard Rock song that might fit into the soundtrack for a grindhouse horror flick, here’s us going dad rock on “Momo”!

Baby I said you don’t have to believe me
but I will tell you it’s true
I was down Louisiana Missouri
when you thought I was stepping out on you

Something hairy something nasty something filthy
smelling like death itself
That furry bastard coming out of the woods
Had me screaming for help

Baby I was gonna run home to you
just as soon as I could flee
but the Sheriff, he enlisted me in his posse
to go up the hill and find that beast

looking for…
Something hairy something nasty something filthy
smelling like the Devil himself
That furry bastard coming out of the woods
Had people screaming for help

Fireballs o’er the Mississippi
Footprints on the ground
Momo’s stalking the hills of Missouri,
And he don’t wanna be found.

Something hairy something nasty something filthy
smelling like the Devil himself
That furry bastard coming out of the woods
Had people screaming for help

Fireballs o’er the Mississippi
Footprints on the ground
Momo’s stalking the hills of Missouri,
And he don’t wanna be found.

Fireballs o’er the Mississippi
Footprints on the ground
Momo’s stalking the hills of Missouri,
And he don’t wanna be found.

265 – Ghost Nation: Back On The Hunt With Jason Hawes

We’ve interviewed plenty of television ghost hunters on the show before, but it’s not every day you get to talk to the original. When Ghost Hunters premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2004 (even before they’d changed the name for corporate trademark purposes to SyFy), there were talk shows with psychic mediums, there were shows that used the Night Vision camera like MTV’s Fear, but there was nothing that showed the modern ghost hunting experience. Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson founded the core of the team and Jason stayed with the show through all 232 episodes.

Those are some serious-looking Ghostbusters

In 1990 after having his own paranormal experience, Jason Hawes formed the group that would become The Atlantic Paranormal Society. The acronym T.A.P.S. would launch a thousand paranormal teams across the country, but it was a 2002 New York Times article that would eventually lead to their deal with Pilgrim Films and turn a Rhode Island paranormal investigation team into international celebrities and create the phenomenon that would become “paranormal reality television”.

Ghost Hunters ended after 11 seasons in 2016 (with a new revival on A&E with Grant Wilson starting this season), but Jason Hawes has returned to television with Ghost Nation, starring longtime TAPS members, Dave Tango and Steve Gonsalves. Ghost Nation is centered around what Jason feels is the most important part of paranormal investigation and that’s working in private residences with families who are having haunted experiences that they need help with.

Dave Tango, Jason Hawes, and Steve Gonsalves

Jason has his own radio show, Beyond Reality and he spent 11 years on television, so he’s a great talker and our discussion is wonderfully candid. He’s got a really disarming manner and even if I hadn’t seen him hunt ghosts so many times, it felt like I’d known him for years. You can see how people who’ve never met him can open up about their paranormal experiences. If he brings that kind of easy charisma to Ghost Nation, it will be a fun season indeed. Here are some of the topics that we cover:

  • Why Jason decided to get back into TV ghost hunting after several years off
  • Tips for a new ghost hunting team
  • The difference between an intelligent haunting and a “recording”
  • Why Jason misses some of the real-life drama that fueled the first few seasons of Ghost Hunters
  • What’s the difference between ghost hunting in the 90s and today
  • Is there some kind of feud between him and Grant Wilson now that they have competing shows?

Ghost Nation premieres on Travel Channel October 11th, 2019 at 9pm Central/10pm Eastern and Pacific Time!

So much of life is dedicated to pondering its brevity. In fact, the Roman Stoics used to carry Momento Moris around, which were little reminders that they were going to die. The idea is that its supposed to urge you into action realizing that you have a finite time on this earth, so make the most of it. My conversation with Jason Hawes who has been to so many haunted sites and has seen so many things that he cannot explain made me posit just the opposite. What if we had all the time in the world?

That immediately made me think of Andrew Marvell’s lovely poem “To His Coy Mistress” which famously starts “Had we but world enough and time”, the idea being that life is short so let’s get to the fun parts (in the poem, the speaker is trying to get his girlfriend to make some sweet love, as was another Seventeenth Century poem inspiration for one of our earlier songs.) But this song is just the opposite, it’s about how love never dies and when faced with the possibility that our spirits are eternal, instead of a one-night stand, it just might be “The Long Game”.

It’s the lines on my face
and the dark around your eyes
when infatuation fades
we’re left with these old lives

what if we knew forever
was more than just fantasy
what if we knew forever
could be our reality

we’ve got world enough and time
an eternity remains
we’ve got world enough and time
love is a long game

Though the clock is ticking
we’re more than these old bones
there’s no stroke of midnight
when you’re dancing on gravestones

what if we knew forever
was more than just fantasy
what if we knew forever
could be our reality

we’ve got world enough and time
an eternity remains
we’ve got world enough and time
love is a long game

264 – Coming Out of the Shadows: New Orleans Voodoo with Rory Schmitt and Rosary O’Neill

No other American cities have mysticism associated with them like New Orleans does with Voodoo. And that’s because, more than any other city, New Orleans is its own thing. It is firmly ensconced in American culture from jazz to football to Mardi Gras to the outporing of support after Hurricane Katrina and holds a special place in the hearts of anyone who has visited (I’m always looking forward to my next trip!)

And for paranormal fans, it’s where Anne Rice wrote her vampire series, it’s where Trent Reznor bought a house, Nicolas Cage bought a pyramid in the city’s most famous cemetery for God’s sake. It’s a city full of haunted history and vampire tours, rich with culture as a crossroads of French settler, African slave, American Indian, Carribbean and English culture have all collided into a gumbo (see what I did there?) of something completely unique. The place has something for everyone… Spring Breakers like Mardi Gras for the Girls Gone Wild aspect, paranormal lovers enjoy all of the legends and strangeness, music lovers can appreciate the one-of-a-kind Jazz, foodies can find a special cuisine, historians can enjoy one of America’s oldest cities, etc…)

Rory O’Neill Schmitt and her mother Rosary O’Neill are New Orleans natives who have taken a lifelong interest in voodoo and have written a book New Orleans Voodoo: A Cultural History. It’s a respectful and eye-opening exploration of a topic that is easily demonized. Voodoo isn’t the black magic of The Serpent And The Rainbow or Angel Heart, it’s not a religion practiced by the “other” that Hollywood can often make things out to be. It’s a normal way of seeing the world and finding spirituality in everyday life that has amalgamated from West African animism, Roman Catholicism, and New World neccessity.

When I read their book, it gave me an insight into Voodoo that I hadn’t seen before. It was more than just superstition and spells, but it provides some understanding of how the world’s oldest kind of spirituality (animism) can combine with more modern religion (Christianity) to create a cultural force that helps guide people’s lives. In this interview about New Orleans Voodoo, we learn about:

  • How did the practice of Voodoo come about, where do the ceremonies and the beliefs come from?
  • How slaves could use Voodoo to maintain a sense of control in a world where they were in chains
  • Who are the lwas?
  • What Catholic saints match up to which ancient African spirits and how they’re similar
  • Why is New Orleans such a unique place for this kind of spirituality?
  • What are some common misconceptions about Voodoo?
  • Rory and Rosary’s personal experiences with Voodoo practitioners

When I was reading the book, the idea of possession in a voodoo ceremony really struck me as something different and interesting to my religious upbringing. Instead of being possessed by the Holy Spirit like the Christians who speak in tongues, they get possessed by a variety of different lwas (a variety of spirits who act between humans and God), whether it’s a lord of the dead like Papa Gede, or Papa Legba, the Trickster of the Crossroads. In the ceremony, the participant becomes a vessel for the spirit to speak through and will often not remember it. That kind of surrender to the invisible powers of the world seems so dangerous to me, but it’s an exiciting idea. It’s exactly the type of thing that people who tell you you shouldn’t play with Ouija Boards would warn you against, but it’s also the kind of thing that seems like a powerful spiritual experience . “Possess Me” is our song inspired by the idea.

I walked with a zombie
somewhere on Bourbon Street
Coming out from the shadows
midnight on St. John’s Eve
So if you go go go
go see the queen
Please let her know know know
she’s gotta pray
she’s gotta pray for me

Ooh darling
I wanna bathe in your blue sea
When the mambo calls your name
I need you to possess me

Close your eyes and listen close
You can feel the Invisibles
flesh and blood, spectres and ghosts
some things aren’t divisible

So if you go go go
go see the queen
Please let her know know know
she’s gotta pray
she’s gotta pray for me

Ooh darling
I wanna bathe in your blue sea
When the mambo calls your name
I need you to possess me

263 – Dream Telepathy: From Inception to The Grateful Dead

We live as we dream – alone…

– Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Or do we?

– Me
Me, getting ready for a little Ganzfeld-style dream research

We’ve talked about dream interpretation before (Episode 129 and Episode 53 in particular are a good place to start) and we’ve discussed the idea of dreams as parallel universes. Of course, we’ve talked about the Succubi and the demons of our nightmares as well. And trying to control your dreams through lucidity was our second episode! Dreaming is the the ultimate looking inward, it’s us actually living inside our own thoughts.

For millennia, humans have considered the dreamstate to be something mystical. After all, it’s a place where anything can happen. Dead loved ones can appear to you, friends can return, you can imagine what life would be like if you had made a different choice, and it all feels real. The thing about dreams is that it feels just as real as regular waking life.

You might not meditate, drop acid, or take magic mushrooms, but you experience an altered state of consciousness every night. When you fall asleep, you dream. Even if you don’t remember your dreams, you still dream when you enter REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.

And if we believe that paranormal experiences happen to us in an altered state of consciousnesss, when are they most likely to happen except for the altered state that we naturally go into every single night?

What if we don’t have to be alone while we dream? What if someone can communicate with us, or even join us?

Inception was the latest movie to use this idea, but of course, we’re also big fans of Dreamscape (one of our friends even worked in the art department for that Dennis Quaid classic!) So, when it comes to dream telepathy, we’re trying to find out what is real and what isn’t, what scientists have proven and what they haven’t.

In this episode, we’ll talk about the most famous dream research, from Sigmund Freud (he’s the man who really introduced dream interpretation into the modern era with his “talking cure”) to Dr. Stanley Krippner, who did dream ESP research for decades, to the latest studies that prove there’s actually something significant (even if it’s only statistically right now) more to our dreams than just a “undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, or a fragment of underdone potato”! Here’s what we cover:

For the song this week, we picked a track off our first album where “dreams”, whether they be of the “wake up in a cold sweat” kind, or of the daydreaming your future kind, can have a huge impact on your life. They can paralyze you as well as energize you. Because no matter where the dreams are coming from, you have to pay attention to them, so you don’t get stuck!

Woke up this morning paralyzed by a dream, 
Stared at my ceiling for an hour, 
Prayed a little, thought a little, then got outta bed. 
Then I went to work at nothing for what seemed like forever. 

The days turn to hours, 
the minutes race past. 
Dreams have this way with me, moving too fast. 
We danced until dawn under endless sky, 
but when I woke up, it had passed me by. 

I’m falling behind in the human race, 
cuz all of my life I’ve been running in place. 
The boys with big dreams have to pick up the pace, 
or all of our lives we’ll be running in place. 

This room looks so old and worn and beat, 
I stared out my window for an hour. 
When you have too much ambition than it’s worse than none at all, 
when you’re waiting for a sign that will never come. 

The days turn to hours, 
the minutes race past. 
Dreams have this way with of outreaching my grasp. 
We danced until dawn under endless sky, 
but when I woke up, it had passed me by. 

I’m falling behind in the human race, 
cuz all of my life I’ve been running in place. 
The boys with big dreams have to pick up the pace, 
or all of our lives we’ll be running in place.

262 – Beyond The Lost Ark: Nazis And The Occult

80 years ago this week, on September 1st, 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland. 2 days later, on September 3rd, Britain and France declare war on Germany and the deadliest conflict in all of human history began. Only a little more than two decades after suffering defeat in the previous most devastating war of all time, the German people were compelled to lose another generation of young men in war as well as slaughtering millions of innocents in the Holocaust, all seduced by the racial ideology of Adolf Hitler.

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that was the movie for my generation that solidified the idea that the Nazis weren’t just conquerors determined to rule Europe, but straight up evil monsters who were seeking to use demonic forces to their advantage.

Remember the first time you saw that one Nazi’s face melt? Pure nightmare fuel.

But the idea that the evil of the Third Reich was more than just human and had a supernatural flavor wasn’t limited to Indiana Jones. 1960’s The Morning of the Magicians discussed the neo-Pagan and magical organizations that exisited in 1920s Germany. Later generations had the Wolfenstein video games which provide an alternate reality of Nazism and occult research to create an undefeatable soldier. In the comics, we got Hellboy, who was born in a Nazi ritual designed to bring about the end of the world. Even Rob Zombie used the idea of occult Nazis in his faux trailer for the movie Grindhouse, “Werewolf Women of the SS”.

Hitler strikes a pose, but was he really casting a spell?

But Nazis didn’t need the demonic to be evil. The Holocaust was not a supernatural Final Solution, it was a very human answer. It was mass murder meets the assembly line and perfected with German engineering. But what are the underpinnings that enable otherwise normal human beings to be able to commit atrocities?

That’s where the Nazis used the occult. People need something to believe in, and the Nazis manipulated Pagan legends, racial pseudo-science (that was just as prevalant in America as it was in Hitler’s Germany), ancestral hatred, and an entire country’s inferiority complex to transform an educated 2oth Century modern nation into a people complicit with genocide. Hitler weaponized belief like a Crusade and set fire to a continent.

Mythology means something and it can unify a people. Science of the early 20th Century was constantly finding ways to justity horrible behavior based on racial identity, there was a resurgence of Spiritualism at the same time (particularly after all of the corpses created during the First World War), and the German people were in need of a morale boost after a devastating loss. The seeds of the Master Race were already planted, but Hitler cultivated it and provided a path to destiny for the Third Reich. He gave a nation of millions something to believe in.

And something to kill for.

The occult was a tool in the Nazi playbook to inspire and manipulate the German people. Did they conduct demonic rituals to summon a Hellboy-style monster to destroy the world? Probably not. Did spreading the myth of an empire destined to last a thousand years while reinforcing the idea that they are genetically superior help inspire a tired people sick of war to attack their neighbors? Definitely.

The Nazis were propaganda experts, and when you seek world domination would the spiritual be any less immune to manipulation than the political? For the 80th anniversary of the Second World War, Wendy and I jump into Nazis and the Occult. Here’s some of the topics we discuss:

  • Why the Nazis were cruel to humans but kind to animals
  • How the Hindu religion and Eastern mysticism was important in the creation of the “Aryan” myth
  • Carl Jung’s psychoanalysis of Hitler and his nearly magical control over crowds when he was speaking
  • Hitler’s strange search for Noah’s Ark
  • How Nazi mysticism is the biggest holdover to modern Neo-Nazi groups alive and active in the modern Unites States

This week’s song is about tribalism which is the basis of the identity politics that inspired the Nazis. Are you defined by your DNA? Should other people be categorized by the tribe they’re born into? Are we “blood and soil”? Are we delineated by who our parents are?

When I was 17, I was friends with a group of ethnically Croatian soccer players and they were proud of starting fights with the ethnically Serbian teams. This wasn’t in Yuogslavia. This was in Wisconsin. Almost all these kids were born in Milwaukee. But they kept their ancestral hatreds alive.

When does this end? Who gets to be the group that beats on all the other ones?

This week’s song is called “Fatherland”.

Run me up the flagpole, 
I bleed red white and blue 
I’m the trueborn son of Uncle Sam 
with an eagle tattoo 
So straight white males are bad guys 
defined by what we’re born into 
so if you wanna play with DNA 
I’ve got a game for you 

It’s time we all made a stand with our tribe. 
It’s time we picked the side where we belong 
We’re all looking for a scapegoat 
And don’t we all love a good bomb? 

I pledge allegiance to the Fatherland 
the corporation for which it stands 
And I cast my vote for apathy 
and I don’t give a damn about autonomy 
If stupidity is democracy 
I hope they blow it up 
I hope they blow it all up 

If identity is destiny 
and our lives are all programmed 
Then like should stick with like I say 
or our empire will be damned 
the legacy of heroes 
a new order of the Golden Dawn 
purity, blood and soil, 
My country right or wrong. 

It’s time we all made a stand with our tribe. 
It’s time we picked the side where we belong 
We’re all looking for a scapegoat 
And don’t we all love a good bomb? 

I pledge allegiance to the Fatherland 
the corporation for which it stands 
And I cast my vote for apathy 
and I don’t give a damn about autonomy 
If stupidity is democracy 
I hope they blow it up 
I hope they blow it all up

261 – Greening The Paranormal: A New Way of Investigating with Dr. Jack Hunter

Last time we spoke with Dr. Jack Hunter, it was upon release of his book Engaging The Anomalous : Collected Essays on Anthropology, The Paranormal, Mediumship and Extraordinary Experience. He’s an anthropologist who has devoted much of his research to exploring paranormal experiences from a more holistic perspective. Instead of just searching for physical evidence in paranormal experiences, he factors everything in from the culture of the experiencer to the history of the surroundings to try and get a deeper understanding of the phenomena.

Dr. Hunter giving a presentation

Humans seem hardwired for extraordinary experiences, so why can’t we prove it? Everyone knows someone that they trust that has had some kind of strange psychic experience or seen something that they absolutely can’t explain. So why is it so hard to prove it? One theory lies in the idea that the very words “paranormal” or “supernatural” are part of the problem. Those words say that metaphysical phenomena is something outside of normal experience.

In our interview with J. Van Ysslestyne, the author of Spirits From The Edge of the World, which is a study of one of the oldest continuous cultures on the planet as well as the one that gave us the very word “Shaman”, she says that to that tribe, the very idea that we’re separate from our surroundings, our land, our ecological system, is an alien thought.

We are part of the land as much as a tree and as much as a bird and they have a spirit or an energy that we can connect with. Paranormal experiences reflect that energy and when we isolate ourselves from it, or try to study the physiology of the experience instead of what happened as a whole, we’re not getting the entire picture. When we do that, we become observers instead of participants. And being a participant seems to be essential in having a paranormal experience.

That form of belief, animism, is one of the oldest kinds of religions, and it’s less of a religion with “rules” and more of a system of belief and conduct. The idea that we’re all connected to the world around us and that spirits are in everything whether it’s an inanimate object or not is how our ancestors viewed their surroundings for much longer than we’ve had modern religion.

Okay, so in this belief system does that mean that rocks have souls? Well, maybe not like humans, but sure, they have their own type of souls. Their own type of energy and it interacts with all the other energies around it and the system itself becomes its own entity. From Bigfoot to faerie sightings to UFO encounters to ghosts, people have often experienced the extraordinary outside in nature. What does that mean?

The new book, feeling at one with his feline friend.

Well, that’s what Jack is tackling in the new book he has edited, Greening The Paranormal: Exploring The Ecology of Paranormal Experience, is a collection of essays that goes deep into the idea that everything in the world is connected. In fact, he took his inspiration from the recent trend of “Greening Religion”, which means that certain churches and faiths are becoming more interested in environmental activism because they realize that pollution and man-made climate change will destroy the wonderful planet their God has created.

And that’s part of the idea of this new book, that perhaps understanding how important nature is to our own ecstatic and spiritual experience will give us new inspiration on how to battle harmful global warming or plastics in the ocean or smog over our cities. If we destroy the system, we could destroy our paranormal connection to it. That’s all very Avatar, sure, but that doesn’t mean that tens of millennia of human nature doesn’t have some ring of truth to it.

My fellow weirdo and sister Allison Jornlin joins Jack and I in this conversation where we talk about:

  • The roots of animism in human belief
  • The modern countries where rivers have been given legal personhood(!)
  • Jack’s own paranormal experiences and how they relate to some classic legends
  • How to approach paranormal investigation from a more holistic anthropological angle
  • How we can open ourselves up more to the spirits and energy that are surrounding all of us

For the song this week, we were inspired by Chapter 9 of the new book, “Ancient Webs, Modern Webs, World Wide Web” and the idea that we’re re-creating with LTE and 5G and the already-here Internet of Things a kind of communicative web among humans and inanimate objects that’s been there all along. And when we thought about that, well, Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” was the first song that came to mind. We used a little homage to that in the lyrics to be an inspirational starting point for this episode’s Sunspot track, “The Web”.

Inside the web
it’s all alive
inside the web
we’re all aligned
from the rocks to the seas to the dirt and the trees, our pets and the breeze, our love and disease,
it’s the wifi you see with your mind’s eye
it’s the wave in the air, our line in the sky.

I can feel you
always with me.
I can hear you
when I can’t see
from the whisper in my ear
to the hair upon my neck
I know you’re somewhere out there
Inside the web.

inside the web
it’s not a trap
inside the web
it’s our wiretap
from the land to the snows, the worms and embryos, mushrooms
and rhinos, our pain and shadows,
it’s the radar love that we dreamt of,
a hidden network we’re all part of

I can feel you
always with me.
I can hear you
even when I can’t see
from the whisper in my ear
to the hair on my neck
I know you’re somewhere out there
Inside the web.

260 – Crossroads: The Devil And Robert Johnson

While he was an obscure and impoverished traveling musician while he was alive, the larger-than-life legends and posthumously released music of guitarist and singer Robert Johnson has turned him into the “King of the Delta Blues” venerated by some of the world’s greatest rock guitarists, from Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones to Eric Clapton to Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

One of the only two confirmed pictures of Robert Johnson

The 81st anniversary of Robert Johnson’s death was this last Friday, August 16th, and we talked about Robert Johnson in our very first podcast episode about musicians who sold their soul to the Devil. After all, the legend that he sacrificed his soul for musical talent at the Crossroads is probably even more famous than his music. They did make a film with The Karate Kid about it!

With songs like “The Crossroads Blues” and “Hellhound On My Trail”, Johnson certainly wasn’t afraid to use some of that occult imagery in his own music and in this episode, we delve much deeper into the truth behind the Robet Johnson legend. We cover his massive influence on the musicians that would cover him and use their own occult imagery to sell records and create a mystique around their songs.

Scott Markus from WhatsYourGhostStory.com joins Wendy and I as we cover these topics:

  • The real musician who told people he sold his soul to the Devil
  • The tragedies of Robert Johnson’s first two wives
  • The trickster god who lives at the Crossroads and the reason people mistake him for the Christian Devil
  • Were there two Robert Johnson’s touring the south in the 1930s and that’s why he has multiple gravestones?
  • Where he really learned his guitar tricks that made him a legend
  • The similarities between Robert Johnson and another flamboyant musician who was rumored to have made a deal with Satan, Paganini

We also talk about our appearance at the Michigan Paracon in Ste. St. Marie this weekend and we hope to see YOU there!

For the song this week, we knew that we wanted to do something bluesy but with a dark twinge. I just finished reading The Thicket by joe R. Lansdale and there’s a quote in there that really struck me:

Robert Johnson’s upbringing in the deeply religious South and the fact that anyone playing non-religious songs was playing “The Devil’s Music” reminded me of the fierce faith of the early Twentieth Century East Texan main character in The Thicket, so like Led Zeppelin borrowing from Robert Johnson, we thought we’d grab a great line from Joe Lansdale and then form a song around it.

When Johnson embraced his legend and the hardened life of women and booze of the juke joint circuit, the terrifying “Hellhound on his trail” instread becomes his faithful companion, so we inverted the idea of his song a little to make “Man’s Best Friend”.

Look back behind my shoulder 
I’m always on the run 
Look back behind my shoulder 
Is there some kind of phantom 
But Lord don’t strike me down 
I was just having fun. 

Ain’t no one keeping score 
for a broken promise 
Ain’t nobody keeping score 
for just a little weakness 
God’s a good idea 
but the Devil is us 

And every night 
in every town 
I get lost and I get found 
I tried so hard to shake this hellhound 
but he’s my best friend. 

Ain’t no one keeping score 
for a broken promise 
Ain’t nobody keeping score 
for just a little weakness 
God’s a good idea 
but the Devil is us 

And every night 
in every town 
I get lost and I get found 
I tried so hard to shake this hellhound 
but he’s my best friend.

259 – Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests

Premiering this Friday August 16th at 8pm Central on the Travel Channel, Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests features the return of one of our favorite ghost hunting crews. Based out of Atlanta, Dalen Spratt, Juwan Mass and Marcus Harvey are real-life friends who investigate paranormal claims and seach for evidence of the supernatural.

To prepare for the new season of the show, we watched a screener of the first episode as they travel to Michigan to help a family that claims an entity in their home as actually physically harmed the mother of the family living there. With a small child in the house, they’re worried about what might happen, so they call in the Ghost Brothers to investigate and see if they can help.

I watched the premiere and it’s full of the things that makes this show stand out from other paranormal reality programming. It’s the guys themselves that make it fun and while they take the investigation seriously, they don’t take themselves too seriously. They just seem like actual human beings and their interactions with the experiencers at the house feel genuine and full of empathy. And they also play well off each other with jokes and an easy comraderie that doesn’t feel made up for a TV show. They’re definitely the ghost hunting team I’d like to have a beer with (well, I wouldn’t mind hanging out with Jack Osbourne, but I’d just pump him for stories from his dad’s heavy metal glory days.)

While the premiere is a lot of fun to watch, I always get a little wary when the show relies too much on what a psychic medium experiences for paranormal proof and I don’t always trust the SLS camera as a ghost-hunting device for actually getting paranormal evidence (it’s designed to see patterns of movement because it’s trying to capture motion for a video game, it’s like a mechanized version of Pareidolia!) But when the REM Pod goes off and all other Hell breaks loose when the team sees something, it’s a great TV moment.

Plus, the stages of the investigation make for some good drama. The first night, they investigate with the family, then the next day they go off and try to do some research around the house. The second night, the team investigates alone or with a medium, and then the next day, they go through evidence and experiences and try to provide some kind of resolution.

As we’re getting to the next wave of paranormal entertainment, it’s no longer just about validating the “haunting”, it’s about solving it for the family. Almost like a priest coming in to perform the Roman Rite on a possession, the Ghost Brothers do what they can to make the family more comfortable in their home.

The sincerity that you feel in the show seems to hold over to real life, that’s if our interview with them that you’ll hear in this episode is any indication. We talk about:

  • Their first paranormal experiences as individuals
  • What their favorite ghost hunting techniques are and what they think works the best for obtaining evidence
  • The moments in their investigations where they felt they had their own most authentic paranormal experiences

For the song this week, we couldn’t pass up a great quote from our interview with the guys. When I asked them if they ever sugarcoat their findings for the families who have to live in those houses, the answer was a quick, “We keep it real, we keep it funky. Yeah, we keep it straight funky”. That seemed like the perfect inspiration to start a song about the Ghost Brothers with. Here’s some Sunspot with “Ghost Funk”.

We keep it real, we keep it funky.
I know there’s something out there
I’ve seen too much to pretend
Well I know in my soul there never is an end
But it’s more than just a leap of faith
it’s gotta take some proof
and my EMF detector is jumping through the roof

I’m not an actor
or just here to debunk
No I came for answers
So gimme some of that ghost funk
You might play it straight
in your normal life
but when we’re on the other side
Keep it funky.

When you won’t go in the attic
or the basement all alone
We’re the team you can call on to see
who’s haunting your home
You don’t have to run out the door
or need to sell the place
We’ve got a history with mystery
and babe we’re on the case cuz

There are some things you can’t unsee
once you have touched infinity
It might stretch your reality
to know the truth that’s lying just behind the screen

I’m not an actor
or just here to debunk
No I came for answers
So gimme some of that ghost funk
You might play it straight
in your normal life
but when we’re on the other side
Keep it funky.

258 – The Ghosts of Charles Manson: Music, Mind Control, and Murder

Years after his demise in a California prison, Charles Manson is back in the news. First of all, the crimes of his “Family” provide the backdrop to the latest Quentin Tarantino film, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood and second, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the murders, providing a grim reminder to the world of one of the twentieth century’s most brutal, infamous, and ultimately pointless killing sprees.

While the title of Tarantino’s film is yet another homage to the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western aesthetic that he aped in Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, it’s also fitting. His movie is about the end of an era for an actor, who enjoyed fame and popularity in the 60s but whose star was fading, just as Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns at the end of the decade reinvented a genre to give us violent anti-heroes and a more complicated morality of the American West than was shown in the earlier white hat versus black hat Lone Ranger-style films.

Weird figure and picture of Manson left at the site of the Spahn Ranch where his Family lived. Photo credit: Scott Markus

And that’s the symbolism of the murders committed by the Manson Family. The ’60s were such a cultural milestone because of the 60 million people born in the Baby Boom after World War II. It’s the biggest generation in American history and it’s the first generation to come to prominence with the United States being a political and economic superpower. The culture war was at its peak. It was the hippies vs. the squares, fighting the repressive sexual Puritanism of their parents, fighting against the war in Vietnam that seemed like a useless waste of life, fighting the racism and segregation laws that kept communities apart based on the color of their skin, fighting the corporate excesses and dehumanization of unbridled capitalism, etc…

Charles Manson ran a free love psychedelic cult and worked with the Beach Boys, he had long hair and a beard, spoke in poetic peacenik vocabulary, played folk songs on guitar, and claimed religious and apocalyptic revelation. He represented everything that ever terrified the parents of the Baby Boomers. He prostituted out the girls of his Family for access to Hollywood elite, he did massive amounts of drugs, and he was an ex-convict. He was the über-hippie and knowing that he engineered such carnage and waste of lives seemed to vindicate exactly what they believed about the movement. Americans celebrated a unique human and distinctly American achievement a few weeks earlier with the moon landing, now we mourned the violent ends that years of debauchery, drugs, and fornication had lead to. New Year’s Eve wasn’t for another four months, but Sharon Tate’s murder was the real end of the 60s. Charles Manson was proof that everything your square parents or local sheriff told you about hippies was right.

The abandoned home of The Family in 1969. Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

The thing about Charles Manson is that we picture him as the crazy guy with the swastika on his forehead from all the jailhouse interviews he has done since being convicted. We don’t hear the honey-voiced singer playing songs about peace, love, and “submission” on his acoustic guitar around a California campfire for impressionable young women, made even more suggestible through their rampant psychedelic drug use. He sounds terrifying and volatile, not anything like the person who dropped to his knees and kissed Dennis Wilson from The Beach Boys’ feet the first time they had met and said, “Do you think I would ever hurt you, brother?”

That’s the Charles Manson who could draw people to him, that’s the “Charlie” who could convince people that he was a manifestation of Jesus Christ. After all, it was Jesus who famously washed his disciples’ feet in his most famous act of humility. And that’s the Charlie who killed nine people while never pulling a trigger or wielding a knife himself. Not a madman, but a charismatic leader of 100 souls, who could hob nob with music industry elite like the Mamas and the Papas and Neil Young or at Hollywood parties with Michael Caine, who all describe meeting him and his family members.

Here’s an important quote from former Manson Family member, Catherine Share, who didn’t engage in the murders, but did try to intimidate witnesses during Manson’s trial and eventually served five years in prison for Armed Robbery:

Never let anybody else do your thinking for you. Get your self-worth from God and from inside. If someone tells you to do everything they say and claims to have all the answers, and you find yourself nodding a lot, then you’re probably in a cult, whether it has a church’s name or is the Manson Family.

Catherine Share, Los Angeles Magazine, July 1, 2009
The LaBianca House in Los Feliz. Photo credit: Scott Markus

And of course, in a truly modern twist, Ghost Adventures’ star Zak Bagans decided to purchase one of the Manson crime scenes, the LaBianca house where a couple was killed by Family members the night after the Sharon Tate/Cielo Drive murders. He was already interested in Charles Manson, because he featured several “artifacts” like Manson’s hospital gown he died in, the TV he had in prison, and bone fragments from his ashes in his Haunted Museum in Las Vegas. Bagans purchased the house for 1.8 million dollars and hasn’t yet expressed what he’s going to do with it, but announcing the purchase the same week as the Tarantino movie and just weeks before the 50th anniversary means that he timed the purchase for maximum public relations effect.

Now Zak believes these places affected by the Manson Family are haunted and we bring Scott Markus from WhatsYourGhostStory.com and formerly the guide of Los Angeles Hauntings Ghost Tours to discuss the ghost stories surrounding the Spahn Movie Ranch, the Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski house at Cielo Drive (since torn down), and the LaBianca house that Bagans just purchased. Scott has investigated these areas himself and delivers his own impressions of the site in this episode. We talked with Scott about the strange premonitions that Sharon Tate herself received before her murder in Episode 230 and you can check that out right here.

It’s singalong time with Charlie…

One of the things that is often overlooked in people’s examinations of Manson is his music. Musicians were such a dominant force in the culture in the 1960s, they were considered heroes and truth tellers and that’s really where we get the idea of the “Rock Star” from. They weren’t just celebrities and artists, they were deified and their fanbase was maniacal. Manson used music to entice his followers. The subtle properties of subliminal influence in the guise of “peace and love” in his songs is insidious. We talk about that before we play our own version of the song that Manson sold to the Beach Boys, “Cease to Exist.” They recorded it as “Never Learn Not to Love You” and Manson was so incensed that they changed some of his words, he left a bullet in Dennis Wilson’s bed, so we didn’t mess with it too much!

257 – I Know What I Saw: Monsters, Myths, and More with Linda S. Godfrey

It was Thursday, July 18, 2019; an oppressively hot Wisconsin evening, the kind of day where the humidity is so great that the air actually feels heavy on your skin, and stepping outside results in immediate fogging of your glasses. It was the perfect time to retreat indoors to an ice cold air conditioned space, one filled with hundreds of full bookshelves and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee (which was probably more popularly enjoyed over ice on this day).

While some people perused the endless aisles of books at Madison’s west side Barnes and Noble book store and others paraded their children through the toy area, a curious group of locals gathered in the back of the store. They weren’t there for a book club or to partake in a craft project. This group was gathered to hear wild tales of hairy beasts, mischievous little people, and ominous winged creatures. It was an interview with one of Wisconsin’s most well-known cryptid researchers, Linda S. Godfrey!

Listening to the author reading her own words! Photo by Scott Markus.
Linda’s brand new book!

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to Linda. She’s been a popular guest on See You On The Other Side several times and inspired Sunspot songs “Mystery” and “American Monsters“, both of which we perform regularly at shows. I’ve seen her present at several paranormal conventions, and I respect the work she does and her meticulous approach at exploring the very unique world of cryptids. I’m a big fan. Having just read her newest book, I Know What I Saw, I was especially excited to delve into the world of monsters, myths, and how on earth the two seem to be manifesting in our world continuously.

We made some special bookmarks to celebrate Linda’s visit to Madison and her new book, I Know What I Saw!

Linda kicked off the interview by reading a passage from the book, a fitting introduction explaining how she was originally drawn into the world of the weird as a reporter at a local newspaper, assigned to the now infamous Beast of Bray Road case. She reported the case with impressive rigor and became very familiar with some odd sightings around Wisconsin.

The Beast opened the door into cryptid research, and decades later, scores of people reach out to Linda to share their experiences with every imaginable kind of creature. Her open mind and excellent listening skills make it easy to understand why people aren’t afraid to tell Linda about things that others may be less willing to accept.

Not only does Linda collect eyewitness accounts, but she frequently does her own investigating. She’s logged many hours in the Kettle Moraine area of SouthEast Wisconsin, known among paranormal circles for being a supernatural hotspot, and has gone on stakeouts for creatures in wooded areas. Our discussion covered many different types of monsters: Unknown upright bipedal canines, bearwolf, sasquatch, manbat, batsquatch, diredog, and that’s just to name a few. Linda even shared her info about the Haunchies so near and dear to our hearts (check out our episode about Haunchyville for more on that Wisconsin legend)!

But, as LeVar Burton would say, “don’t take my word for it”! The book I Know What I Saw is loaded with monster stories of every ilk, and knowing these aren’t (necessarily) fiction but are experiences reported by real people gave me the feeling that WE’RE SURROUNDED. I’ll be keeping my mind, and eyes, open and ready to have my own experience… And when I do, you better believe Linda will be the first person I share it with!

To hear more of Linda’s intriguing experiences and investigations, here are some of our past discussions:

Once again, Linda has provided excellent song inspiration with her book title! This week’s Sunspot song is self-explanatory: I KNOW WHAT I SAW!

And stalking from the murk 
came something strange 
Just in a second 
everything changed 

A walking nightmare 
sudden abnormality 
A chimera that broke my reality 

You might say impossible 
when I was struck dumb with awe 
It might break all the natural law 
but I know what I saw 

A glimpse into the infinite 
A peek behind the veil 
When you finally see yourself 
on a cosmic scale 

Some moments I remember 
with perfect clarity 
Like when I saw the creature that stretched my credulity 

You might say impossible 
when I was struck dumb with awe 
It might break all the natural law 
but I know what I saw 

And stalking from the murk 
came something strange 
Just in one second 
everything changed 

A walking nightmare 
sudden abnormality 
A chimera that broke my reality 

You might say impossible 
when I was struck dumb with awe 
It might break all the natural law 
but I know what I saw 

I know what I saw.