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ROC, ROPEN, SCISSORS: TERRORS OF THE SKY

Roc, Ropen, Scissors: Terrors of the Skies

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a bird… It’s a plane… it’s a… cryptid?

Monsters are not just confined to the woods and water. As it turns out, there are a variety of Fortean folktales about giant flying creatures that can swoop down and pluck helpless mortals off their feet and carry them off to unimaginably horrible demises. Here in the U.S., these days Mothman grabs all the headlines, but it wasn’t always so. In fact, if you counted up legends and sightings, he’d easily be dethroned from his pop culture throne by the true reigning champion of aeronautical cryptozoology: the Thunderbird.

Thunderbirds have been sighted all across the United States and North America, long before Europeans fled religious persecution in their homelands and settled here. The native tribes had many legends of these giant birds, and many descriptions as well.

If you read the blog earlier this month, you might have caught mention of winged reptiles swooping down on the surprised citizens of the Southwest in the 1970s. And then there was the tale of a young man in Illinois who was nearly carried off by a strange bird of enormous proportions, much like a scene from the movie “The Valley of Gwanji”. But there’s more to the Thunderbird and its winged cousins around the world than some amazing cinematic stop animation. Nor does the Thunderbird rule its skies—other flying creatures have struck terror into the hearts and minds of the Earthbound, all around our globe:

The Roc is a legendary winged beast from Africa and the Middle East, reported in some instances to be large enough to carry away elephants.

The Ropen is a modern day, extant dino-bird, hailing from Southeast Asia, with reports still surfacing to this day.

Here in the U.S., Illinois was once home to a legendary, chimera-like creature called the Piasa that was described as being as large as a calf with horns on their heads like a deer, a beard like a tiger’s, a face somewhat like a man’s, a body covered with scales, and a long fish’s tail.

But by far, the widest reported of all the sky terrors was an enormous bird with a wingspan far surpassing that of any vulture or condor—a black-feather avian powerful enough to lift a small child.

Before we scoff at a report like this, we need to examine whether or not it’s even possible for a feather bird to be big enough to carry a small human. Condors and Turkey vultures are definitely big enough to carry away squirrels and even small house cats, but they have a wingspan that just isn’t wide enough to hoist anything bigger than that.

That wasn’t always the case, though. Turning to the fossil record, scientists have theorized a bird that would make even the inhabitants of Sesame Street shake in terror: Argentavis magnificens. Discovered in Argentina, this giant raptor was estimated to have a wingspan up to twenty-four feet wide. How much could such a beast lift up into the sky? That is debatable, as some scientists have speculated the avian’s own weight may have forced it to run into strong winds to even get aloft. But, if we consider that the Osprey, with a wingspan of up to 26 inches can pluck a fish weighing as much as 10 ounces from the water, it isn’t that much of a stretch to consider that the Argentavis could lift something considerably larger.

If Argentavis doesn’t fit the bill, there was one other bird even larger: Pelagornis sandersi, with a wingspan of up to twenty-four feet and a head that looked more dino than dodo.

Now that we know it was at least once possible for a bird to be big enough to grab a boy, we should look for other accounts of it happening. And, terrifyingly, there are.

Reports may be few and far between less horrible bird stories, but there are tales of Stellar Sea Eagles (with only 8 foot wingspans) attacking children and carrying off small dogs. The Golden Eagle (with a slightly smaller wingspan) is also reported to have attacked children, as in this video from Kyrgyzstan

The girl attacked wasn’t carried off, or harmed all that much, but the point here is that yes, large birds will attack people—and their pets.

Years ago, I read two accounts of Eagles actually attacking children. I can’t find them now, but the first involved a Stellar Sea Eagle attacking a small child, while the second was a report of Eagles plucking babies from the huts of their parents in Africa and killing and eating them.

Sound preposterous? Not really, when you consider that a small deer can be the same size as a baby, and there’s video of Eagles flying one back to their nest and eating it:

But don’t think that means the Thunderbird (so called for the sound it’s wings make, or in some tales it’s ability to summon thunderstorms) doesn’t have a hankering for longpig.

While the Piasa of Illini Indian legends doesn’t look much like an Eagle, it was reported to prefer a Manwich over Bambi. As the legend goes, the Illini unsuccessfully tried to kill the creature, until the Great Spirit appeared in a vision to the chief Ouatoga, telling him how to kill the monster. The chief stood in a clearing, as bait, then twenty of his warriors hid and waited. When the Piasa swooped down to eat Ouatoga, it was instead riddled with poison arrows. In today’s modern age of firearms, the Piasa definitely wouldn’t stand much of a chance, nor would its fellow sky-terror, the Thunderbird.

So, where are all the Thunderbirds? Some have suggested the beasts preyed on the buffalo before it was hunted to near-extinction. Of course, they might still be here, dining on all those missing pets we hear about regularly. Looking up, into the sky, with nothing to judge its size against, it would be hard to distinguish a massive bird from just a large one—unless you happened to be flying alongside it.

Q Is For Queen: The Ghost Of Freddie Mercury

Queen is once again one of the hottest bands around, 28 years after their beloved singer died, thanks to the amazing popularity of the biopic of Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody, as well as an Academy Award for Best Actor for the movie’s star, Rami Malek.

Even though Queen was already seemingly out of vogue by the time I started getting into music, the second tape I ever had was Queen’s Greatest Hits and at 13 years old, it blew my mind. Freddie passed away the November I was a freshman in high school and that brought attention back to the band enough where the deejay let me request “Bohemian Rhapsody” at our dances. Of course, we’d slow dance with our girlfriends to the mellow parts and then rock the f#$% out to the big riff when it came in. When Wayne’s World came out only a few months later and the everybody was headbanging in the car, it felt like it was a window into my teenage experience. That’s when I realized how universal the appeal of Queen really was.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was always too hard to cover, so we just stuck with the easy ones, like “We Will Rock You” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, but they always had a place in my playlist. And still do, here’s a picture of Wendy and Scott from What’s Your Ghost Story at SXSW 2019 where we were partying to a Queen tribute band at the Good Omens launch party. The bald guy is the singer and he was an incredible performer. That dude had balls and we all knew it, because we could see them outlined in his full unitard!

That singer was fearless, and that’s what Freddie could inspire you to be, because as a frontman and a songwriter, he was as bold and audacious as they come. He made the line “I want to ride my bicycle” sound badass, he makes tough guys sing along to “Aw, you’re my best friend” and still think it’s cool! He could bounce from jazz to hard rock to opera in a song and it all felt natural. Not only was he an incredible guiding light for me but for millions around the world, and you can tell how deep is effect was, because people have been seeing his ghost now for decades.

Just in March of 2019, a listener to 97x, a Classic Rock station in the Quad Cities claimed that he captured a picture of Freddie Mercury’s ghost high above the stage at a Queen tribute concert in Moline, Illinois. Now it’s obviously just the way the lights are interacting with the fog machine and it looks like one of those images where people see Jesus with the sun peeking through the clouds, but it’s still pretty fun once you see it.

ghost of Freddie Mercury
Is this Freddie singing along?

Someone posted in the Unexplained Mysteries discussion forum that Freddie visited them while they were listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the best part is how he describes what the singer was wearing.

I was listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen last night and the visage of Freddy Mercury coalesced into cohesion right there in my living room!

he was wearing these snappy red leather chaps and and knee high motorcycle boots! 

I said “Freddy what are you doing in my living room?” and he just snapped both fingers and vanished before my eyes!

outpatient777 – April 16th, 2009

Now the next line he asks, “Am I schizophrenic?” so it’s probably just a silly troll post, but this was a long time before Bohemian Rhapsody came out as a movie. However, they’ve never stopped playing Queen songs on Classic Rock radio, so those songs are never too far from our imagination.

Freddie also visited Jennifer Bennett, a California girl raised in the 70s, she woke up a couple of days after the 22nd anniversary of his death with the lyrics of “Bohemian Rhapsody” stuck in her head, and what she says was his energy. She says:

Freddie and I have never been particularly close so his presence was curious.  I was a bit embarrassed to to have felt visited by him, or at least visited by the energy that he embodies.  Freddie Mercury – bold, brazen, impressive, self assured, diva.  It felt as if I have something to learn from him.  And, of course, to hear Bohemian Rhapsody as if it was plugged directly into my brain…  Jeez.  The power ballad that puts all others power ballads to shame.  Yet, it was only the first 3 lines I heard this morning, over and over.

The Ghost of Freddie Mercury“, Frame A Mind blog

She talks about how she admired him for his brash fearlessness and how she felt emboldened by his energy. Was it Freddie flitting in and out of her dreams, coming to her with a message that she needed to hear?

This album cover was also the inspiration for Guns n’ Roses original cover for Appetite for Destruction

But while Mr. Fahrenheit might have visited Jennifer Bennett once in the morning, his ghost spent much more time with Christine Burgess. The Decemeber 15th, 1996 News Of The World (a tabloid newspaper that Queen named an album after!) features a story about how Christine said she started an affair with the ghost of Freddie Mercury shortly after his death.

Christine’s husband was said to be frustrated that Christine kept comparing him to Freddy, who he called “Mr. Perfect”. But poor Stuart also insisted that his wife was “mentally unstable” and that seemed to be proven true, because Christine would show up at the home of Mary Austin, Freddie’s sometime lover and longtime companion. Burgess said that she deserved to move into the home, which was left to Austin by Mercury, because “she and Freddie were lovers in a former life.” It wasn’t just Mary, but she hounded Queen guitarist, Brian May, as well as Freddie’s friends. And she wouldn’t be deterred, the article ends with her still claiming:

“These people are frightened because Freddie is with ME.”

Queen guitarist Brian May – he’s also a Doctor of Astrophysics – FOR REAL

And speaking of Brian May, he even mentioned in a 2014 interview with British tabloid, The Daily Star.

I feel him around a lot. I don’t want to be too mystical about it but he is very much a part of what we do.

Brian May about Freddie Mercury

This was right when Brian was producing an animated special called One Night In Hell based on some art he has collecting, but more interestingly they were a about to release three new Freddie Mercury songs that they had found in the archives on a record called Queen Forever. So, obviously he was thinking a lot about his departed friend and hearing his voice in the studio might have brought back some of those familiar feelings. Who knows, maybe Freddie was with them, just like he visited Jennifer a few years earlier.

Actor Rami Malek who won the Oscar playing Freddie Mercury

The most recent story about the ghost of Freddie Mercury comes right from the set of Bohemian Rhapsody, where a source told the online site Dish Nation, that:

There has been feeling from Rami and Brian along with the film’s director Bryan Singer that​ ​Freddie is watching them prepare for filming. Rami believes Freddie’s presence is very much on-set and with him wherever he goes, including when he’s at home practicing singing Queen songs… Rami has ​been dreaming​ of Freddie telling him about how he performed on stage, showing him his moves and how it is to be a rock star.

Anonymous source from the set of Bohemian Rhapsody

But speaking of director Bryan Singer, he has himself been embroiled in controversy over sexual allegations of seducing underage boys. And it certainly doesn’t help that in many people’s minds he’s associated with Kevin Spacey, since Singer was the one who really launched the disgraced actor’s career by directing him to a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in The Usual Suspects. When Malek was nominated for the Academy Award, he was immediately interviewed for the Los Angeles Times, and when pressed about the allegations against Singer, he brings up Freddie’s ghost again.

 I didn’t know much about Bryan. I think that the allegations and things were, believe it or not, honestly something I was not aware of, and that is what it is. Who knows what happens with that … but I think somehow we found a way to persevere through everything that was thrown our way.

Perhaps that was Freddie himself doing it, because we wanted to make a product that was worthy of him. Who knows?

Rami Malek

So, while Freddie’s physical body has been gone almost three decades now, it looks like his spirit isn’t going anywhere. Whether or not it was actually his consciousness visiting Brian May and Rami Malek or it was just his personality was so larger than life that it’s easy to mentally create the energy in our own heads, it doesn’t really matter.

Freddie Mercury is still alive every time we sing along to words we don’t even understand like “Scaramouche scaramouche will you do the Fandango?” Freddie Mercury is still alive every time a teenager bangs his head to that incredible guitar riff and then grabs his partner to slow dance at the end. Freddie’s dead, but we bring him back to life every time we let it rip to a Queen song.

After all, who wants to live forever anyway?

P is for Poltergeist: Not Just For Teenagers Anymore

Although I have respected colleagues in paranormal investigation who immediately dismiss all poltergeists cases as fraud, to a student of history, this approach seems limited and unreasonable. So many poltergeist cases pop up throughout history and across cultures that such casual dismissals don’t make sense. These eerily similar accounts of blatantly nonsensical manifestations are reported by very different populations dating back to antiquity and differ greatly from the usual ghost story narrative. This strongly suggests something is actually happening that goes far beyond mere imagination.

The German word “poltergeist” means “noisy ghost” and refers to the chaotic, cacophonous, house-wrecking phenomena that have been reported for centuries all over the world. These include, but are not limited to mysterious raps and other loud noises, untraceable fires and water damage, and the reckless hurling around of anything not nailed down by unseen forces. The word was first coined to describe such manifestations in 1638. Later Martin Luther would popularize the term in his religious writings. In 1948, the OG ghost hunter Catherine Crowe introduced the term to English usage in her groundbreaking catalog of the strange, The Night-Side of Nature.

The first recorded poltergeist case was in the 4th Century, according to Christopher Laursen, who wrote his PhD dissertation on the history of poltergeist phenomena at the University of British Columbia. Other sources attest such accounts date back to Ancient Greece.

The prevailing hypothesis maintains these violent outbursts may not be due to ghosts or any external forces at all, but to the power of the mind alone. Today poltergeists are mainly viewed as uncontrolled tantrums of telekinesis perpetrated most commonly by adolescent females. The modern study of the unexplained, parapsychology, has largely reclassified poltergeist activity as a human-centric phenomenon with the new label Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK). However, fashionable this current explanation, such activity has not always been blamed on the unconscious psychic machinations of disturbed teenage girls, but to many other monsters including ghosts, demons, fairies, and vampires.

My favorite podcast discussion about poltergeists was with Fortean author Geoff Holder. He spoke with us about his masterpiece of research, Poltergeist Over Scotland for which he examined 134 poltergeist cases documented in the historical record. Many different cultural contexts have been imposed upon poltergeist manifestations over the ages. However, in his opinion, no one explanation applies to all cases, even our modern interpretation. He has found that only 1/4 to 1/3 of poltergeists center on an adolescent human agent. To Holder, poltergeist activity usually has no obvious purpose and may just be the work of feckless entities, essentially the “numpties” of the supernatural.

Whereas most hauntings function as memento mori or cold comfort for mortality, poltergeist activity, on the other hand is often so chaotic it’s more likely to remind us that humans are not the center of the universe. Holder asserts that it may represent a non-human intelligence which is almost entirely indifferent to us.

Although Holder admits hoaxes and pranks do account for some poltergeist cases, as they do for any reported phenomena, he maintains that they cannot explain away the literally thousands of poltergeist cases reported by multitudes of reliable witnesses and the consistency of their accounts over centuries. In his study of 134 cases, he found that only 4.5% involved hoaxing. The analyses of other researchers indicate these numbers are between 3% and 15%.

Holder also hopes that the physical nature of poltergeist cases will open up the possibility for the scientific study of this phenomena. He cites one 2010 study of the unique audio signature of poltergeist raps as a step in the right direction. Conceivably studies such as these could some day lead to the scientific breakthrough for which every psychical researcher has been waiting.

For more fascinating poltergeist cases, listen to the following:

244 – N Is For Notre Dame: Ghosts And Legends of the World’s Most Famous Cathedral

One of Notre Dame’s notorious gargoyles stares into the void.

Although some claim the thoroughly modern French don’t believe in God or ghosts, let’s be real and face the truth.  Everybody believes in something at least bordering on supernatural, even if they don’t readily admit it.  The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, brutally ravaged by fire on April 15th, 2019, is a prime example.  There’s something in the folklore of Notre Dame Cathedral for everyone — ghosts, curses, holy relics, and miracles.

Not saying it was the candles, but they sure do have a lot of candles.

Ghosts

We discuss this ghost photo in our podcast episode above; click here for additional photo info.

Dozens and dozens of people have killed themselves at Notre Dame Cathedral, and many others have tried.  There seem to be two off-ing options repeated over and over — the classic leap off one of the towers or the showy spectacle of off-loading a pistol into your head at the altar in the middle of mass.  Although it’s no match for the Eiffel Tower, where literally hundreds of people have committed suicide, Notre Dame has its fair share of harrowing stories.  Although the gun to the face before a packed house might seem like the most dramatic choice, the leapers of Notre Dame, especially those of the female variety, take the prize for sheer horror and eerie echoes of detail.

The death of Marie Felix in 1882 is probably the most famous because it is the goriest.  The specifics are so graphic that in the week following Marie’s death, 25,000 Parisians visited the morgue per day just for the chance to view her mangled corpse.  Although her name is forgotten by most, her suicide is the reason most cited to explain any paranormal activity in the cathedral. 

Marie is described in the newspapers as a beautiful, young woman with extraordinarily long hair arranged into two thick braids which she wore rolled around her head. She was first noticed by the cathedral’s security staff one October morning as she impatiently paced about the cathedral for about two hours. Some say she was denied access to the towers without a chaperone, so she was most likely desperately seeking someone to accompany her. As it happened, she would finally meet an elderly lady that morning, whom she kindly invited to lunch.  After Marie provided the unnamed lady with a nice lunch at a local restaurant, they returned to the cathedral at 2 p.m., ostensibly to gaze upon Paris from the vantage point of the towers. However, an unexpectedly heavy downpour forced them to take shelter in the watchman’s sentry-box.  Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, Marie made a mad dash, and before anyone could stop her, she climbed the parapet, flinging herself forward. 

Marie immediately fell upon the spikes atop one of the railings, which sliced her body in half at the waist.  The lower half flew backward onto the flags of the porch while the upper half remained impaled.  Her body was broken “completely into pieces by the shock upon the stones of the Place du Paris”, according to another article.  Marie was later identified as the daughter of a local tradesman.  Her family attested that Marie had often threatened suicide and that her actions were not due to any recent disappointments.  The coroner’s post-mortem findings included lesions on the brain which were thought at the time to confirm that Marie suffered from “suicidal monomania” just as her relatives had claimed.

A similar incident in May of 1890, claimed the life of a lovelorn 21 year-old.  The unidentified woman also leapt from the towers and, according to the account, was “dashed to pieces in the street below”. More recently another pair of suicides claimed additional victims. 

In October of 1964, 21 year-old American tourist Veronica Mcconnell had just arrived at Notre Dame, her first sight-seeing spot of the day, when another woman climbed over the balustrade of the North Tower.  Only moments later she took the plunge, falling directly onto Veronica, killing them both.  An almost identical scenario would transpire in August of 1983.  Veronique Stalla-Bourdillon, 24, plummeted to the pavement killing herself and flattening Johanne Pelletier, 29, of Montreal, who had been standing at the doors to the cathedral unaware of her impending doom.  Perhaps this morbid history explains the most reported ghost experience at Notre Dame — encounters with female apparitions seen pacing among the towers, flitting between the gargoyles. 

Cursed Doors

(Not the actual Devil or the ironwork on the Cursed Doors, but this piece by artist Cyril Colnik still seems apropos.)

During the construction of Notre-Dame, a young artisan called Biscornet was tasked with the creation of elaborate ironwork to decorate the cathedral’s doors.  Biscornet soon realized his ambition has gotten the better of him, so he casually called on the Devil for help, as you do.  While Biscornet took a nap, a masterpiece of intricate ironwork magically materialized.  Once completed, the Devil snatched Biscornet’s soul of course.  Yet the doors could not be opened by normal means until they were christened with holy water.

Holy Relics and Miracles

Although many seem ready to deride relics and the miracles with which they are credited, dismissing such notions as magical thinking, there are many more who believe. Can holy objects bestow healing and grace upon the faithful? In the Catholic Church, there is a strong conviction that anything which has come into contact with Christ or the Saints is imbued with extraordinary powers. During WWI, Germans bombed Paris on October 12, 1914.  As bombs fell on and around the Notre Dame Cathedral for some reason they did not explode and the cathedral was undamaged.  Many might consider this a miracle. 

Notre Dame was home to many relics from the Crucifixion including a piece of the True Cross, a crucifixion nail, and, most notably, the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus.  A particular miracle attributed to the Crown of Thorns is called “The Miracle of the Thorn”.  Once every 70 years, when Good Friday coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation, the Crown of Thorns is said to once again drip with the blood of Christ.  This fragile relic is encased in a crystal ring, held together by clasps of gilded bronze. Jean-Marc Fournier, Chaplain of the Paris Fire Department, assisted by a human chain of volunteers, entered the burning cathedral to rescue the Crown of Thorns from the April 15th fire. The relic is currently being housed at the Louvre for safe keeping.

Here’s Mike’s original photo of the gold cross that survived the fire.
And here’s the iconic image of the cross after the fire.

In addition to the ghost stories and legends explored here, in this podcast episode, we uncover:

  • the real-life inspiration for the fictional Quasimodo
  • the pagan origins of the cathedral site
  • the derivation of the word “gargoyle”.

Plus we analyze the inevitable claim that Nostradamus predicted the blaze!

This is a grotesque, perhaps the most example at Notre Dame named Le Stryge. It’s a scary statue meant to warn away evil. A gargoyle, on the other hand, does double duty, repelling demons while also functioning as a rain gutter.

So many people shared our despair about the destruction of such a famous landmark, we decided to share a Sunspot oldie from our first demo tape, that eventually made on our album. Here’s a track about acceptance, when you just can’t fight anymore; it’s one of our saddest songs, “Defeated”.

Never look directly into the, 
heart of the sun, 
Never leave your battlefield, 
before your fight’s been won, 
and let the ghosts that haunt me, 
come visit me tonight, 
I want to join their midnight dance, 
I want to surrender under the moonlight. 

When will the war inside your heart ever end? 
Why must you fight it all alone? 
Can you fill your empty soul on your own? 

I lay defeated, 
torn and broken at your feet, 
Can I make you happy now? 
I lay defeated, you have brought me to my knees. 
I cannot fight you anymore. 

And I’ll try to hide the bitterness, 
that my heart holds, 
I’ll try to regain the innocence, 
that you bought and sold, 
And I’ll try to pick my broken pieces up off the ground, 
Will you care? 
No, you won’t care, 
when they fall back down. 

When will the war inside your heart ever end? 
Why must you fight it alone? 
I see the blood that’s on my hands is my own. 

I cannot fight you. 
I will not fight you. 
So why can’t I just walk away? 

Does he do the things I never did? 
Does he make you feel wanted? 
Tell him to make you happy the way I never could. 
Even though you’re standing next to me, 
you’re a million miles away. 

Your indifference has defeated me, 
adding insult to injury. 
Now that you have beaten me, 
now that you have victory, 
now that we are history, 
will you ever be happy? 

I lay defeated.

M Is For Major Arcana: Storytelling Through The Tarot

In addition to being lovers of the paranormal and all things Fortean, Wendy and I also have been performing in a rock band since college. The name of the band started as Nevermore, which we thought was sweet because everyone loves Edgar Allen Poe, but we switched it to Sunspot because the lawyers for a power metal band called Nevermore threatened to sue us when they got famous before we did.

Sunspot seemed like a cool name because they’re dark mysterious parts of the sun that interfere with radio waves on Earth. We’re all into sci-fi, so having an astronomical event be the name for our band sounded about right. Plus, it was the 90’s and compound nouns were all the rage then (Pearljam, Soundgarden, etc…)

We’ve always had a touch of an occult bent to the music and have long enjoyed the symbolism and mystery of the Tarot deck. In fact, our band, Sunspot’s first album, Radio Free Earth, featured The Fool from the Rider-Waite Tarot on the cover. I’ve always loved the Tarot, even though I don’t find it particularly mystical.

It’s a great party game, but it’s also a useful tool for self-reflection. The Major Arcana represent archetypes of personalities, and we all have a little bit of those archetypes inside of us at one time or another, so it can almost be a form of psychoanalysis. When you deal the card, what does that archetype mean to you and for your life?

So when, we were looking to create a rock opera that we were going to tour the country with, we knew we were going to be playing for a lot of people who had never seen us before. We needed to find some kind of shorthand that we could use to get a message across quickly to audiences who weren’t very familiar with our music. The Tarot seemed like the perfect and we could even give it a frame story of a lonely guy talking to an Internet psychic and the cards that he deals would then lead into the songs.

But in order to get to that story, we had to work our way through the process of how we would tell a story in a live music performance by using background videos, tarot cards, and loud rock songs. Here is the process we went through and the notes we took to figure out the beats of the story, what Tarot cards would work the best, and then you can see what became the final product, our rock opera, Major Arcana.

What Story Are We Trying To Tell?
“Life is pain. Anyone who says different is trying to sell you something.” – The Princess Bride

We’re all slowly disconnecting from each other. How can it be possible that we know more about each other than ever (we know what someone has to eat through their Twitter update, we know what they’re listening to at the time through Blip.fm, we know the score of their children’s soccer game through Facebook) but we take care of each other less than ever. We know the lives of celebrities better than we know the people who live next door. A recent study found that the number of people with whom Americans can discuss matters important to them dropped by nearly one-third, from 2.94 people in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004. Researchers also found that the number of people who said they had no one with whom to discuss such matters more than doubled, to nearly 25 percent. We have more ways to connect with people like us than ever, but there’s nowhere we belong more than ever.

The theme of this work is taking a journey that starts in naivete which leads to mistakes, pain, and isolation. It is only when he doesn’t try to control others but takes control of his own destiny that he rejoins society and finds the place where he belongs. Sunspot’s music and live show is a communal experience for the audience. Bringing people together is something we do extraordinarily well (there have been 4 weddings from people that have met at Sunspot shows!) Our music and performance is about connection from interacting with the audience to communal singalongs. We are all about bridging the gaps in the human condition.

Why The Tarot?
The main character is portrayed as a modernized version of The Fool from the Tarot and is representative of a desperate soul in search of experience. We use graphics and animation during the songs to show the emotional significance and characterization of each experience and to highlight the performance onstage.

Each song is represented by a major arcana tarot card that in its meaning helps represent the song graphically while the music conveys the emotion and the performance makes it real for the audience. By using the Tarot mixed with sci-fi elements we’re combining mysticism and technology. Viewing modern-day problems through the lens of archaic symbolism, much like the main theme of the piece deals with the paradox of how ultramodern forms of communication cannot cure the age-old problem of humans not relating to each other.

By using the Tarot, we don’t have to spell everything out for the viewer and we can use symbols that many are already familiar with, yet simple enough that their meaning can be imported through a few images. Also, it enables us to use a motif that began on our first record and work off the symbolism of each record afterwards because the iconography of our albums can be juxtaposed with the Tarot easily as well as integrating into the show’s themes.

Here is the basic structure of the character’s journey, the symbolism and iconography of each moment:

When The Revolution Comes (The Fool)

The character is an idealist and it’s one of our few songs that is honestly idealistic. It’s pure and sweet and non-ironic.

This is the perfect song to introduce the Fool character. After all, it’s his naivete that sets him on his journey.

The Breach (The Emperor)

Stinging disappointment and the way that idealism and hope can be inverted and crushed. Trust is abused and eventually broken. The descent begins.

The Emperor symbolizes the desire to rule over one’s surroundings, and its appearance in a reading often suggests that the subject needs to accept that some things may not be controllable, and others may not benefit from being controlled.

Sweet Relief (The Hanged Man)/Tunguska (The Wheel of Fortune)


A pean for the beginning of separation, the start of a change. The idea that the grass is greener on the other side of the street. The notion of emotional divorce from the world begins to seem attractive because there has to be a better way.

A pean for the beginning of separation, the start of a change. The idea that the grass is greener on the other side of the street. The notion of emotional divorce from the world begins to seem attractive because there has to be a better way.

The Hanged Man relationship to the other cards usually involves the sacrifice that makes sacred; personal loss for a greater good or a greater gain.

And when the song switches to “Tunguska” it’s the moment of impact, when the isolation begins. The character gets the last vestiges of his hope destroyed, blown away.

The Wheel of Fortune represents the intercession of random chance into the Fool’s path. The card represents the forces that can help or hinder the querant suddenly or unpredictably.

Eat Out My Heart (The Devil)

Here comes the idea that there’s no way to win, that separating from humanity is the best way because when you care too much, you lose.

Or it’s the idea of being a slave to an idea. The character is a slave to his idea that he’s been hurt. “Eat Out My Heart” is a song about hating someone else and being a big old victim. It’s wallowing in self-pity and delusion that someone else is to blame for why the character feels stung. As long as the character is encumbered by those emotions, they never get better. It’s not about being upset with the girl who this song is for, because that girl isn’t suffering. It’s the character singing who is being punished and he’s punishing himself. The Devil is great for “Defeated” but also works for “Eat Out My Heart” to add some levity here.

The Devil is the card of self-bondage to an idea or belief which is preventing a person from growing or being healthy. It is the card of futility, pessimism, and mistakes.

Neanderthal (The Hermit)

The lowest point of the emotional arc. Relationships are about domination and humanity is cast aside in favor of the animal. It’s the heaviest moment, the darkest lyrics.

The Hermit represents the need to withdraw from society to become comfortable with himself. He represents isolation.

Dig Your Grave (Death)

The other side of the door. It’s about seeing how someone else retreats, it’s about how someone else runs away from the rest of the world and in reacting to that event, the character starts to regain his (or her) sense of connection to the rest of the world. Only through forgiving others for how they’ve wronged you, can you start to become part of the community again.

Death implies an end, possibly of a relationship or interest, and therefore implies an increased sense of self-awareness.

Perfect (Strength)

A realization of that’s how life is, that you can’t control what happens around you only how you react to it. The character just wants to decide his own destiny.

“It doesn’t matter if everything’s ugly, it doesn’t matter if it’s all unsafe.” This song works well with this theme right off the bat. It’s a little more fun and the message is more straightforward. It’s happy, but not too happy and would lead well into Summer Day.

The modern interpretation of Strength stresses discipline and control. The lion represents the primal or id-like part of the mind, and the woman, the ‘higher’ or more elevated parts of the mind. The card tells the Querent to be wary of the temptations of the flesh.For example, in The Chariot card, the Querant is fighting a battle. The difference is that in Strength, the battle is mainly internal rather than external.

Summer Day (The Chariot)

I’ll be part of the group but by my own terms. I’ll live my own life and I’ll do it the way I want to. That’s what’s important, that’s what counts. You can’t make me grow up because I’ve seen the pain and the suffering that grown-ups endure. I’ll join, but only if I get to make the rules.

After the impulse that pulls us out of the Garden, we get on our chariot and depart. At that point, we are the Hero of our own story; maybe the Hero of everyone’s story. That Hero might represent Helios, the Greek god who drives the Sun’s chariot across the sky, bringing light to the earth.

No Place Like Home (The Star)

You have to accept that the world will crush your hopes sometimes, and that the world is hard. But it’s not impossible to find your place and sometimes it’s right back where you started, but when you get here this time, you at least have a better understanding and you’ve chosen to be here. So now, you may not necessarily be in the place you think you shoud be, but you’re in the place that suits you best.

The pool of water refers to the subconscious. The land refers to the material world. She renews both. Usually divined as hope for the future, good things to come regarding the cards close to the star. By having a foot in both, this is where the Fool understands that he needs to be part of the material world as well as his own life. This is the reintegration and reconnection back to society.

So, this silly story told through tarot cards consumed about a year of our lives. From the initial concept, to writing new songs, to figuring out how to synchronize the videos and lights, to recording the actors, to booking the tour, and then editing the DVD and all the videos ourselves.

And through that year-long DIY creative undertaking, much like a good Tarot reading, we learned a lot about ourselves. We loved the final result and the show was great (we even recorded a video tour diary as well as a directors commentary track on the DVD!), but it was the processthat we’ll always remember.

By doing it all ourselves and creating everything from scratch (except for the Tarot cards), we put ourselves through what sometimes felt like Hell. But it was our own “hero’s journey” along with the character from the show. And hopefully we too might have started off the trip as the Fool, but came out the other side, The Star.

L Is For Los Angeles: Haunting Pioneers of L.A.

When you think of Los Angeles, images of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood surely come to mind, alongside imagery of traffic and paparazzi. When considering LA’s older ghost stories, you may think of Marilyn Monroe, or silent era icons like Charlie Chaplin or Rudolph Valentino, but LA’s roots go back much further, which some very old structures still remaining, cared for by the watchful spirits of those who helped build (as Steve Martin would misquote in LA Story), “This other Eden… demi-paradise… this ground… this Los Angeles.”

Olvera Street is a marvelously restored, historic section of Los Angeles, just a few blocks from the heart of downtown LA. Spain was aware of the land that would become California and, in 1781, decided to send 11 Mexican families to establish a community here. Russia had already conquered the area we now know as Alaska and the fear was that they would work their way down the Pacific Coast. The first settlements in LA ended up getting washed away by the LA river, but the first community that stuck is this area, originally named (translated) Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels, or Los Angeles for short.

Avila Adobe

Located on the North end of Olvera Street, the Avila Adobe is the oldest standing residence in Los Angeles. The house was built in 1818 by former mayor Francisco Avila. It was built traditionally for the time and culture, originally featuring a flat, tarred roof, utilizing tar from the La Brea Tar Pits, which was grazing land Avila’s cattle.

This house was Avila’s family’s home, though he himself only visited on weekends. However, it was also a grand house to entertain friends, which the Avila family did frequently. Though, no battle took place here, American troops did take over the house for use as a headquarters until the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed, thus ending the Mexican-American War.

Massive earthquakes in 1870 and 1971 damaged the frail house, making it uninhabitable for large stretches of time. Today, thanks to tremendous preservation efforts, a seven-room portion of the house has been restored and can be visited daily for free.

Today, the home is not only frequented by guests, but also by original owner Francisco Avila, who is said to talk the halls and plaza, continuing to look over his impressive homestead and the village he once presided over as mayor. In addition to being seen clearly in the house, in the courtyard and in front of the house, people have also heard his heavy boots as he invisibly wanders the halls of the house. People have also observed shadow people throughout the structure.

Avila’s first wife, Maria, died in 1822. He later remarried to a woman named Encarnación. It is Encarnación’s ghost that is said to also inhabit the house long after her 1855 death. Some witnesses have seen a female form sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch while others have heard the sound of feminine crying within the home, apparently coming from the master bedroom. The belief is that her immense sorrow of learning of her husband’s death is the intense emotion that still plays out, in residual form.

One of Avila Adobe’s Haunted Bedrooms

Today, the home is not only frequented by guests, but also by original owner Francisco Avila, who is said to talk the halls and plaza, continuing to look over his impressive homestead and the village he once presided over as mayor. In addition to being seen clearly in the house, in the courtyard and in front of the house, people have also heard his heavy boots as he invisibly wanders the halls of the house. People have also observed shadow people throughout the structure.

Avila’s first wife, Maria, died in 1822. He later remarried to a woman named Encarnación. It is Encarnación’s ghost that is said to also inhabit the house long after her 1855 death. Some witnesses have seen a female form sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch while others have heard the sound of feminine crying within the home, apparently coming from the master bedroom. The belief is that her immense sorrow of learning of her husband’s death is the intense emotion that still plays out, in residual form.

Just 500 feet to the south, continuing down Olivera Street and through the plaza is the Pico House, a building once considered the most luxurious hotel in Los Angeles. The building was constructed in 1870 by successful businessman and the last governor of Los Angeles while under Mexican rule, Pio Pico.

The Pico House was an immediate success for years upon it’s opening. The 82-room hotel was in high demand through 1900, when the business center of the city shifted south. It was this shift that ended the glory days for this area.

However, even its glory days were not always so glorious. Just days after the city of Chicago burned to the ground in the great fire, a different kind of fire would rage in Los Angeles. A fire made up of vengeance and anger.

This location bordered the original Chinatown and two warring Chinese immigrant associations were battling each other when Jesus Bilderrain, one of only six police officers in Los Angeles, heard shots ring out. He found one Chinese gang member bleeding in the street when he was struck by a non-fatal bullet in the shoulder. Nearby tavern owner, Robert Thompson, came to aid and was eventually shot in the chest and killed. A city already rife with prejudice against the Chinese exploded. A mob stormed Chinatown, indiscriminately attacking any inhabitant they could find. Buildings and storefronts were damaged, easily hundreds of people were beat up and dozens more were hanged to death throughout Chinatown. The majority of the slayings took place just steps from the Pico House, on the land that is now LA’s Union Station.

In the end, at least 17 Chinese were killed, including young boys. Questions persist over Even Builderrain’s story. Was he a hero cop, shot in the line of duty, or was he merely a key member of a murderous lynch mob? Regardless of how it all went down, there is belief that some of those killed are still present at the Pico House. Some of the spirits are apparently vengeful, as an episode of “Ghost Adventures” talked to a security guard who claimed they were kicked in the back of the leg while walking down a staircase.

Additionally, Pio Pico himself is often seen looking over his land from the roof or upper windows of the Pico house. Much like Mayor Avila, he appears to be keeping tabs on the land he presided over in life. It’s also worth noting that, aside from the lit street lamps and the hum of nearby traffic, the setting is preserved, locked in time, so perhaps its this familiarity that makes Olvera Street, the Avila Adobe, the Pico House and a number of other nearby buildings such a desirable place for past tenants to remain, long after their deaths.

J Is For Jennie & Julia: The Ghosts of Innocence

Both Jenny Wade and Julia Buccola are immortalized today and given nearly sainthood status as two women who died tragically and have left behind some legendary stories,

First, we will go to Mount Carmel Cemetery in the south Chicago suburb of Hillside, Illinois.  Perhaps no cemetery illustrates the equality that death brings to all of us.  No matter how glamorous or ordinary, how wealthy or struggling, or how we lived our lives, we all physically end up in the same place.  Nowhere is this more true than in Mount Carmel Cemetery where the executors of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in interred in the same ground as some of their victims.  Warring Mafia henchmen and leaders alike, are resting peacefully alongside their rivals.  This dichotomy may not be more stark when considering that criminals like Charles Dion O’Bannion, “Machine Gun Jack” McGurn, Roger Touhy, Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, Sam Giancana and even Al Capone is buried at the same cemetery as religious leaders like Cardinal Bernardin.

On the opposite side of the cemetery from Al Capone is the beautiful gravesite of Julia Buccola Petta, who is considered a modern-day saint.  Julia’s life was tragically taken at the young age of 20 while giving birth to a stillborn infant.  She was buried in her wedding dress under a nondescript grave, sharing her coffin with her baby.  At the time, she was remembered by her surviving family and a newly widowed husband.  Now she is remembered by a whole city.

After her death, Julia’s mother began having nightmares.  These nightmares consisted of her daughter begging and pleading to be removed from the earth from where she had recently been buried, as if she had been buried alive.

This started a six-year battle by her mother to have Julia’s body exhumed.  Finally, the church and cemetery agreed to go through with the task to appease the elder Buccola.  Their findings were remarkable.

Decomposition of the human body begins almost immediately and it tends to be a rapid process.  Knowing this, all of those present during the excavation expected to see nothing but bones once the casket lid was opened.  To their complete surprise, Julia’s body looked as if she were still living.

According to those who witnessed this first-hand, her skin was still fresh and soft to the touch.  She looked as though she was merely sleeping.  While Julia appeared completely unchanged, her infant was in the expected condition; nonexistent other than skeletal remains.

A monument was erected on Julia’s grave depicting Julia standing on her wedding day.  There are two photographs attached to the base of the monument.  One is Julia on her wedding day while the other was taken the day her body was exhumed, just before reburial.

Those who knew the story immediately considered Julia a saint.  She died while giving birth to her first child and her body was proven to be incorruptible.  She was an instant heroine for Chicago’s Italian-American women.

Indeed, Julia has been seen outside of her grave and without the help of an exhumation.  Her ghost has been seen walking the grounds of the cemetery in the area nearest to her Harrison Street gravesite.

For the most part, she has been seen at night, but there is at least one notable daylight encounter where a lost little boy was eventually found holding Julia’s hand.  When the worried parents finally found their child, Julia vanished.

Julia’s memory and inspirational past continues to live on throughout Chicago and, in particular, in the neighborhood around the cemetery.

Some 600 miles away in the living monument to one of America’s darkest events, Jennie Wade stands as a symbol to all the innocence lost during the Civil War.  Two opposing armies clashed over three days in 1863.  In all, over 175,000 soldiers would fight relentlessly around the town of Gettysburg, overrunning a town that previously only boasted some 2,400 residents.  Once the smoke had cleared, 50,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in the enormous, sprawling, battle.  Remarkably, only one civilian was killed.  It was 20-year-old Jennie Wade.

Wade, a born and raised Gettysburg native, went to her sister Georgia’s house as the fighting broke out to tend to her and her one-week-old nephew, Louis.  Instead of hiding out in the basement, Jennie was at work in the kitchen, baking bread for Union soldiers.  The intensity of the fighting was outrageous, with hot spots of action popping up and shifting constantly.  Perhaps, to the Wade family, they were growing apathetic to the danger around them.  After all, on day one alone, their house was hit by an estimated 150 bullets.  On the morning of day three of the fighting, this house saw one bullet too many.  Slicing through two doors, striking Jennie in the shoulder, continuing through her heart, only to emerge from the other side of her, coming to rest in her corset, one single bullet killed Jennie instantly.

Just days later, Jennie’s fiancé would also be killed in battle, even before learning of his love’s demise.

Due to the trajectory, many believe the bullet was fired from a sniper’s nest, possibly from the Farnsworth House, some 800 feet away. Immediately after her death, her body was taken down to the cellar of the house, which seems to be the most haunted part of the property

Today, Jennie is rightfully immortalized.  Her family was granted a pension as the family of a fallen soldier would since she died while serving the Union cause.  The house she died in is now a National Monument and a museum while a statue of her stands out front.  Her grave site is one of only two female graves in the country to fly a perpetual American flag.  The other person is Betsy Ross.

The Jennie Wade House is one of the dozens of known haunted sites around Gettysburg.  EVPs are commonly recorded by paranormal investigators.  There are claims of colored ghost lights appearing throughout the structure.  However, is it only Jennie who is still inhabiting the home?  Before the war, Jennie Wade’s father, James, was arrested for not returning found money and sentenced to two years of solitary confinement in the notoriously haunted Eastern State Penitentiary.  By the time he was released, he was a broken, mentally damaged soul.  He ended up spending the rest of his life residing in the Adams County Alms House, an asylum/poor farm.  Today, the museum’s cellar contains a blanket-covered mannequin, reproducing the scene of Jennie’s body laying here after her death.  Many speculate that it’s Jennie’s father who watches over this scene, still trying to protect his lost daughter.  People in the area have felt the unmistakable sensation of a hand grabbing them firmly, usually sending the unsuspecting individual running across the room.

E Is For Evil Eye: Origin Of A Superstition

It’s not just a staple of low budget horror movies—the Evil Eye is very real. Sort of.

In the 1800s, Italian immigrants brought their hopes, dreams, and superstitions with them to the New World. Among these was the belief in an Evil Eye, the “mal’occhio” (MAL-OAK-EE-OH). According to Italian folklore, stragas(witches) could use this power at will. But even a normal person gripped by jealousy was believed to be capable of cursing you. 

And, where there’s a curse, the Evil Eye also had a cure. Victims of this ocular curse were diagnosed using a basin filled with holy water and a bottle of olive oil. The basin was placed before the afflicted while an incantation was recited. The olive oil was then poured into the water in the form of a cross. If the cross of oil remained, you were fine, but if the oil dispersed, you were cursed!

Of course, if you didn’t want to perform this ceremony yourself, you could always consult an evil-eye doctor. The evil-eye doctors were believed to have cured countless victims through prayer and the laying on of hands, but the exact ritual they used to cure their patients is still unknown. It was only passed down through families once a year, at Midnight on Christmas Eve. At any other time, the ritual would lose its power to cure. Today, the evil eye doctors’ cure is still a secret.

If you’re wondering, the concept of the evil eye was not confined to Italy. In other parts of the world, belief in the evil eye is still strong, and people wear talismans to protect themselves, such as necklaces and bracelets.

While an evil eye curse isn’t a common thing these days, the effects of the belief in mal’occhio can be seen in modern popular culture. It’s likely you’ve seen the hand sign that people use to protect themselves from the evil eye, but probably thought it represented something else like partying or Rock n’ Roll. The late Ronny James Dio a heavy metal musician who once played with Black Sabbath, claims to have popularized the use of this symbol during rock concerts. After Ozzy Ozbourne left Black Sabbath, the rest of the band felt very competitive with him and his solo career. They noticed that Ozzy would often use the double peace sign, more commonly associated with Richard Nixon, during his shows. During their Heaven and Hell tour in 1980, they thought, “We need a hand sign that represents us!” That’s when Dio says he suggested the hand sign taught to him by his Italian grandmother.

Dio believed it was thought to work when the two outstretched fingers served as lightning rods to suck up the negative effect of mal’occhio. However, it is more probable that like the little golden horn so often worn by Italian men, the horn-like hand placement represents the male symbol of the bull. One mal’occhio researcher believes that the fear of the evil eye has its origins all the way back in ancient Mesopotamia. He believes it stems from a change in the way people worshipped the goddess. Originally goddess idols were very rotund, grossly emphasizing the torso. Then suddenly goddess idols drastically changed. They became thin with grossly exaggerated eyes. He believes that mal’occhio represents the all-seeing eyes of this goddess. In that case, using the male symbol of the bull to protect yourself makes more sense. Perhaps the male energy is meant to deflect the female power of mal’occhio.

If you’re not a fan of Rock and Roll, or you don’t ever find yourself at odds with an Italian, you aren’t in the clear. If you have ever been to an optometrist for an eye exam, you have crossed paths with the evil eye. In fact, according to optometrists, we all have an evil eye. More specifically, it’s our left eye, which, in eyeglasses prescriptions, is noted as “OS” (the right eye is noted as “OD”). OS is an abbreviation of the Latin term Oculus Sinister, or “evil eye” (OD is short for oculus dexter, the right eye).

Sinister is literally the Latin term for “left”, but owing to Old World superstitions, left-handed people were considered evil—and thus the term sinister came to mean something bad, or evil.

Remember that the next time you go to pick out a new set of frames.

To learn more about the Evil Eye, check out our episode “CURSES: FROM EVIL EYES TO JINXED BUILDINGS”!

D Is For Demon: Our Five Favorite Fiends

We attended the Shooting Star Paracon in Minnesota last year and conducted a survey. What’s your favorite paranormal topic and we gave four choices…

  • Ghosts
  • Cryptids
  • UFOs
  • Demons

Much to our surprise, demons took second place right behind ghosts! Cryptids came in unexpectedly last and Nessie was inconsolable. So you demon-lovers, here are our five favorite demons and the episodes that we tackled them in!

1. Valek – The Demon From The Nun

The demon Valek comes straight out of the medieval spellbook, The Lesser Key of Solomon. Magicians would try to invoke his name to perform magic. They said they could do this and remain Christian because legend says that King Solomon used the name of God to force seventy-two demons help him build the First Temple in Jerusalem.

Valek was known as the President of Hell and his magickal specialty was commanding household spirits as well as controlling serpents. Hollywod used him the inspiration for the demon that’s haunting the Warrens in The Conjuring 2 and the follow-up, The Nun. John Carpenter also used him as the original vampire in his James Woods-cracks-jokes-and-stakes-bloodusuckers flick, Vampires.

But in the original description, this wicked creature is not an Evil Nun or a rockstar-looking vamp, he’s a winged baby flying a dragon. Might not be as badass, but still pretty cool.

2. Lillith – The Original Sex Demon

In Genesis, there are two competing versions of the creation of humanity. One has man and woman being created at the same time, the other has Eve being created later out of Adam’s rib. In order to reconcile the versions, medieval Rabbis decided that Adam had to have a first wife, and they called her Lillith, which was based on the Babylonian word for demon.

When she wouldn’t submit to Adam by laying under him when it came time to do the nasty, she was kicked out of the Garden of Eden and decided to mate with a demon, Azael instead. in mythology, she’s been blamed for everything from wet dreams (the original succubus) to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She’s a seducer and baby-killer that visits in the night.

3. William Bührer, One Of The Demons Inside Carl Seige

When my sister Allison Jornlin was doing research on the famous Wisconsin exorcist, Theosophus Riesinger, she ran into a case of demonic possession in the Dairy State. Carl Seige was a German immigrant who moved with his family to Watertown, Wisconsin in the 1840s. He had been experiencing violent seizures since he was a boy and his family left the Old World so that they could escape what he claimed were the demons demons inside of him.

He exhibited at least three signs of possession. He correctly predicted when priests were coming to visit him, even though no one told him they were coming, they asked him questions in Latin that he correctly answered in German, and he reacted violently when they would show him a crucifix.

One day, during one of his worst seizures, he said he was possessed by William Bührer, who was a murderer in their German town before Carl was born. But he also said there were many other devils there as well. Carl was exorcised by a Lutheran minister, a psychic medium, an Indian medicine man, and finally by a trio of Catholic priests. While the trio finally succeeded in calming his seizures for a month, he had to be re-exorcised throughout the rest of his life to keep the evil phantasms like William Bührer at bay.

4. The Demon Who Manifested Himself to John Eagan

John Eagan was born a good Catholic boy in Brooklyn and grew up to be a special education teacher and bartender on the side. He said at the bar that he met a lot of lost souls who he would regularly pray for, since he believed no one else would. He’s still pretty religious (he even made a bust of Jesus out of wax candles that was featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not!) and he thinks his prayers in the hope of saving those souls at the bar drew the attention of a demon.

His wife and son first started experiencing Poltergeist-like activity, but the real kicker is when John saw the demon in his living room. An evil face appeared to him surrounded by blue flames and said “No more.” John thinks the threat was about his prayers, because the Devil wanted their souls for himself. He tells the story in his own words for the episode.

5. Pazuzu from The Exorcist

Pazuzu is the Mesopotamian demon of the southeast wind that brings famine. He has the body of a winged man, talons of an eagle, the head of a dog, and the tail of a scorpion. His enemy was Lamashtu, who was the demon of hurting women and babies in childbirth (much like Lillith), people would wear amulets with Pazuzu’s image on it to protect their young families. So even though he was thought he was an evil spirit, they would wear his image because he was so nasty he would scare away other evil spirits.

So it’s a real legendary demon that William Peter Blatty used for his antagonist in The Exorcist. He had the title character, Father Merrin first meet the demon on an archaeological expedition in Iraq in the 1940s, which is on the site of the former Mesopotamia. Only later would he meet the demon again when it took over the poor soul of Regan Macneil to make her barf pea soup. In our memorial episode about William Peter Blatty, we talk all about the real inspirations that he used to write his most famous book.

Since demons are way more popular than we originally thought, who are some of our favorites? Maybe we can take on their legends in a future episode!

C Is For Curses: Ten Famous Pop Culture Maledictions

On See You On The Other Side, we deal with all kinds of paranormal and unusual phenomena. While we love ghosts, UFOs, and cryptids, which are really the big three of the paranormal, we really just can’t resist a good curse. (and who can? That’s the scary part, right?) Here are some of our favorite curses we’ve covered on the podcast, with a link to each episode.

1. The Kennedy Curse

The Kennedys are America’s royalty. They are a fabulously wealthy and beautiful clan whose children have spent generations in powerful elected positions from the East Coast. With a President, multiple Senators and House Representatives, you would think that these guys have the world wrapped around their little finger. But tragedy has followed their family for generations, from the assassinations of the two most powerful brothers to the airplane crash of JFK Jr. to the failed lobotomy of Rosemary Kennedy, somehow their incredible fotune seems tainted.

2. The Oscar Love Curse

Oh, Hollywood. Glamor, money, fame… and very little lasting love relationships. Big stars change spouses fast You’d think that if you win an Academy Award, the film industry’s biggest honor, that your loved one would want to stick by you more than ever, but it ain’t so. Best Actress winners particularly seem to have problems with their love life after winning the big award. Is the great esteem cursed somehow or might it be the jealousy of the entertainment industry causing the split (especially when the woman outshines the man)?

3. The Franklin Expedition Curse

In 1845, the British Navy launched their most ambitious mission to find the Northwest Passage to establish a trade route between the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. They sent their most technically advanced ships and two captains who were well-versed in Arctic exploration. Both ships became trapped in the ice and disappeared, prompting multiple searches for the Lost Franklin Expedition from Britain, America, and Canada over the years. Both ships were found in the late 2010s, but when the HMS Terror was discovered in 2016, the local Nunavut people felt that the spirits were disturbed on their island by bothering the sunken ship. Several untimely deaths occured in the community and they sent a team of guardians to perform a ritual to keep their community safe from the curse.

4. The Poltergeist Curse

No doubt about it, Poltergeist is a terrifying film. But the movie is fiction, what seemingly happened to the actors involved isn’t. Both of the actresses who played the daughters of the haunted family, Dominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke died way too young. Dunne was murdered by her ex-boyfriend and O’Rourke died of a freak bowel obstruction. Julian Beck and Will Sampson, the evil and good spirits from Poltergeist II: The Other Side, died shortly after the movie’s release, hadrly unexpectedly, but unlucky at least. Some people say it was because they used real human skeletons on the set of the film, but Craig T. Nelson is still doing just fine…

5. The 27 Club

Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Kurt Cobain. Amy Winehouse. All immensely famous musicians who died at the peak of their fame and way before their time. But why did it all end for them before their 28th birthday?

6. Robert Johnson and the Curse of the Crossroads

Robert Johnson was one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time and was called the King of the Delta Blues. He also died at 27, but was never as famous in his lifetime as the other members of the club. His fame came after he died and has been called the best bluesman ever by the likes of Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. His songs have been covered by everyone from Led Zeppelin to The Blues Brothers. Some of them can be dark with titles like “Hellhound on My Trail” and his most famous song, “Crossroads” people say is about how he sold his soul to the Devil at a road crossing in Rosedale, Mississippi. It gave him amazing musical talent, but it ended up taking his life early.

The Mothman Death Curse

If you haven’t heard of the Mothman of Point Pleasant, a dark winged humanoid with red glowing eyes who was seen in the late 60s in West Virginia, you might consider yourself lucky. No less than the man behind the International Cryptozoology Museum himself, the legendary Loren Coleman, wrote Mothman: Evil Incarnate, a book where he describes the Mothman Death Curse. He devotes an appendix to one hundred mysterious and untimely deaths of people who have been involved in the Mothman mythos in some way, from the original victims of the Silver Bridge Collapse to people who worked on the Richard Gere film.

The Curse of King Tut

There were supposedly nine victims of King Tut’s curse, people who were related to the excavation of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s tomb. Sir Arthutr Conan Doyle, the writer behind Sherlock Holmes, even toured that there was some kind of supernatural vengeance that was being wreaked on these Western interlopers. It was featured in all the newspapers at the time, but also Egypt was a very popular topic to write about, and the financier of the King Tut Expedition gave a single paper the exclusive rights to the story. So, was the curse blown out of proportion in the interest of paper sales or was there really a curse on the wall of the tomb of Egypt’s Boy King?

William Henry Harrison and the Tippecanoe Curse

Before he became President, William Henry Harrison was governor of the Indiana Territory and was behind a shady deal that screwed the American Indians there out of a good deal of their land. A great battle was fought at Tippecanoe and Harrison’s forces emerged triumphant. The brother of defeated Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa, was considered a great prophet and he supposedly cursed Harrison to die in office and the presidents that every twenty years after. And they did, Harrison was elected in 1840 and dies in 1841, Lincoln dies in 1865, Garfield in 1881, McKinley in 1901, Harding in 1923, Roosevelt in 1944, and Kennedy in 1963. Seems like being elected in a year that ends in a zero is bad luck until Reagan survives his assassination attempt in 1981.

The Curse of the Billy Goat

How ’bout them Cubbies, right? They’re the most famous Chicago sports institution and are beloved by celebrities from Bill Murray to Vince Vaughn. And years afer his death, most baseball fans can still hear Harry Carey’s famous call of “Holy Cow!” perfectly in their heads. But another Chicago institution is the Billy Goat Tavern (the inspiration behind the Saturday Night Live classic “Cheeseburger Cheeseburger” sketch) and then the owner was kicked out of a Cubs game in 1945 because his pet goat smelled too bad, the rumor is that he cursed the team to never win the National League Pennant again. They didn’t get in the World Series again for 71 years and coincidentally clinched the title on the 46th anniversary of the owner’s death.