Tag Archives: movies

238 – Swamp Gaslighting: Project Blue Book Smackdown with Mark O’Connell

You might say that Mark O’Connell knows a little bit about Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer who was in charge of the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book. There, Hynek was charged by the military to investigate UFO reports across America and then summarily disprove them. In fact, Mark O’Connell literally wrote the book on Dr. Hynek called The Close Encounters Man.

We’ve had Mark on the show several times before and it’s always a treat. He’s written for Star Trek, has a UFO blog, and he even joined us for a remembrance of Bill Paxton, because Mark had written a script that Bill wanted to direct in the late 90s but unfortunately it never came to fruition.

So you think when the “History” Channel decided to create a show called Project Blue Book where J. Allen Hynek is the lead character, they might contact Mark because they were look for true life stories for their show. Well, the answer to that one is a big fat no. They decided to go on a little more fantastical route.

Aiden Gillen as J. Allen Hynek talking to an alien in a water tank. Hynek biographer Mark O’Connell is not amused.

We kicked off the episode by discussing the trip Allison just got back from in Woodstock, Illinois before we started the recording. She was following the trail of a Mothman sighting she read about on The Singular Fortean because it sounded somewhat like the Flatwoods Monster story that actually forms the basis of the second episode of the new show. Allison also attended the Chicago premiere where the producers and Hynek’s son were in attendance.

But Hollywood history be damned, we talk about the real stories behind the man. J. Allen Hynek basically invented how we study UFOs, how you scientifically look at each report and take a look at each piece of evidence from the weather to the planets to the phase of the moon to the position of the stars, and you eliminate all the terrestrial explanations before you move into the extra-terrestrial. We also get into:

  • The real story of how Dr. Hynek first moved from the desk to the field investigating UFO cases for the Air Force
  • The cases that converted J. Allen Hynek from a skeptic into much more open minded about the reality of strange lights in the sky
  • How Hynek became UFOlogy’s Enemy #1 by suggesting some Michigan sightings might be just “swamp gas”
  • Mark’s favorite case from his own UFO investigations as a MUFON investigator (and what’s going wrong with some of the MUFON politics and investigative methods lately.)
The real guy and Littlefinger…

Hollywood loves to say things are “based on a true story” and then proceed to make them wildly inaccurate. Here, we understand that fiction is fun, but that often the best parts of even fantastical stories (like haunted houses, UFO sightings, etc…) are the parts that keep us grounded to the Earth. By fictionalizing the story to an X-Files extent, you’re doing disrespect to the actual man.

Hynek’s investigative techniques and open mind are what made him a legend in UFOlogy. He was dealing with a lot of things that couldn’t be proven and his mission to discredit UFO sightings is what made it all the more impactiful when he found cases where he could not find an answer. It was his rigorous scientific method of investigation that made the difference, not secret government informants or Werner von Braun.

For the song this week, we were taken by the fact that sometimes the media thinks we’re too dumb to think for ourselves. There is a language and shorthand to cinema that is meant to trigger our emotions quickly and too often producers think that they can exploit our beliefs with special effects and “dramatizations”, sacrificing quality for spectacle. Well, we’d rather hear the truth about Hynek and here is Sunspot with “Disinformation Nation”.

Don’t trust your eyes
and question what you see
They’ll tell you lies
the don’t care about history
A story to bewitch
that is designed to find your switch
you’ll never see it coming
when they activate your programming

Believe
Disinformation nation
Deceive
Disinformation nation
How loud can you shout with a
a mouth inside a mouth
we’re just hardwired for manipulation
Disinformation nation.

You’ll see all things new
with a mind that’s clean
A brain tattoo
imprints and memes
A tale to push your trigger point
Finding the weakness at the joints
Looking for a crowd to whip
and you’ll jump when your sequence is tripped

Believe
Disinformation nation
Deceive
Disinformation nation
How loud can you shout with a
a mouth inside a mouth
we’re just hardwired for manipulation
Disinformation nation.

185 – The Oscar Love Curse: Legends and Lore of The Academy Awards

From Joan Crawford to Sandra Bullock, Bette Davis to Hilary Swank,  actresses who win Academy Awards are said to have been cursed in love shortly after. In fact, everyone from Forbes to National Public Radio to The Washington Post have talked about it.

For example, Emma Thompson wins Best Actress for Howard’s End in 1993 and by 1994, it’s revealed that Kenneth Branagh was fooling around with Helena Bonham-Carter on the set of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein a year later. They’re divorced in 1995.

Reese Witherspoon wins for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk The Line in 2006, five months later she is divorced from her husband Ryan Philippe.

Renee Zellweger is dating Jack White (from The White Stripes) in 2004 and she wins Best Supporting Actress for Cold Mountain, several months later, they split up.

And those are just a few of the more modern examples. Hollywood breakups have been happening to Oscar winners since the Academy Awards started, but is there any truth to the “Oscar Love Curse”? And is it always women who are unlucky? What about the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor winners?

Hollywood Ghost Tour guide and WhatsYourGhostStory.com founder Scott Markus joins Wendy and I to get the facts behind the Oscar Love Curse and we also dish some more fun paranormal facts about Hollywood’s biggest night, The Academy Awards.

oscar love curse
1999 Gwyneth sure seemed happy, two months before her breakup with fellow Oscar winner, Ben Affleck

This week’s song is all about relationships collapsing and the feelings afterwards, it’s Sunspot’s ode to bitter breakups, “Eat Out My Heart”.

I’ve been waiting so long for you to call,
but now you’re finally here and I’m a wreck.
Worked out a little, even did my hair,
but I’m not the man I used to be back there.

I hope you have an ugly boyfriend,
I hope you’re working at a carwash,
I hope your life went down the drain and everything is not okay,
I hope your best years passed you up.

I dodged a bullet,
One or two since then,
You’re not the only one who still calls me up.
I’m still the jerkoff who listens to your problems,
I never told you all the times,
I’d wished you died in a car crash.

I hope you have an ugly boyfriend,
I hope you’re working at a carwash,
I hope your life went down the drain and everything is not okay,
I hope your best years passed you up, I hope your life sucks.

I’m eating out my heart.
I’m eating out my heart.

And I’m not happy for you,
That you’re a better person without me.
I’m so glad you decided to apologize,
When I’m too numb to care,
I’m just too numb to care.

I hope you have an ugly boyfriend,
I hope you’re working at a carwash,
I hope your life went down the drain and everything is not okay,
I hope your best years passed you up.

160 – Texas Chainsaws, Space Vampires, and The Poltergeist Curse: Remembering Tobe Hooper

Filmmaker Tobe Hooper passed away on August 26th, 2017 at the age of 74. Hooper was most famous for being the director on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist, but he also set his indelible mark on great films like Salem’s Lot and (the extremely under appreciated, in my opinion) Lifeforce. While he’ll always be remembered for having a massive impact on the the horror genre with his first big film, his other works have had real life paranormal urban legends and inspirations behind them. Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts, Wendy, and I talk about they recent Mothman investigations (Allison in Chicago and Wendy just went to Point Pleasant, West Virginia) and then we get right into our favorite Tobe Hooper movies.

First of all, we discuss the marketing behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, because the original tagline said that it was based on true events – which is completely not true! Of course, that kind of marketing helps sell tickets and makes something even scarier (just think about The Conjuring as a modern example). That little bit of brilliance helped Tobe Hooper turn his $300,000 independent Austin, Texas movie turn into a 146 million dollar (adjusted for inflation) horror juggernaut that inspired sequels, remakes, and even launched the careers of Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger.

But Leatherface was inspired by our own America’s Dairlyand homegrown Psycho, Ed Gein, who created his own masks of human skin from corpses he’d dig up in the Plainfield, Wisconsin graveyard. Ed died in Wendy and my town of Madison, but Allison has a fun story about her college poetry professor who used to volunteer at socials at the Mendota Mental Health Institute here and even got to dance with Ed himself (who was prone to dementia and considered good natured in his old age.) That was about as far as the “Based on a true story”, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre got. Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and a little known Roddy McDowell film called It! were also inspired by Ed Gein.

Tobe Hooper made a huge impact on the cultural zeitgeist with his adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot for television and 11 years before kids were traumatized by IT, it was vampires in Maine that gave them nightmares.

Tobe Hooper
Hooper and Spielberg on the set of Poltergeist

But then Tobe Hooper hit Hollywood pay dirt by scoring the directing gig for Poltergeist. While there was a controversy that Steven Spielberg might have been the real director, our interest comes from the curse that supposedly followed the actors involved with the production.

The story of the Poltergeist curse has been around for at least 20 years and it involves the fact that the two of the actresses died very young, Dominique Dunne was murdered by her boyfriend and Heather O’Rourke (the girl that says “They’re here”) died of bowel obstruction complications during the filming of Poltergeist III. 

Plenty of stories on the Internet and on reality TV try to make it seem like there’s something to the curse, and the actress who payed the mother in the first two films, JoBeth Williams, even added fuel to the fire by claiming that real skeletons were used during the making of the film (that part might be true!). But beyond the coincidental tragedies of the two young actresses dying young, there really is no other evidence of any Poltergeist curse.

Hooper followed up Poltergeist with the awesome Lifeforce, written by Alien‘s Dan O’Bannon, but also based on Colin Wilson’s work The Space Vampires. Wilson was a fiction and nonfiction writer who would often deal with the paranormal and metaphysical and what makes The Space Vampires extra fun is that Wilson wrote the book on a challenge from Wisconsin author, August Derleth. Derleth is the one who kept H.P. Lovecraft’s world and mythology alive after his death, and he challenged Wilson to write a book in the Lovecraft vein. The Space Vampires was the book, and Tobe Hooper made it come alive (or undead!) with his adaption in Lifeforce. It wasn’t a big box office hit, but it’s been critically reevaluated in recent years for the terror-filled science fiction extravaganza that it was.

tobe hooper the saw is family
Tobe Hooper helping out one of Leatherface’s family onset

After the mid-80s and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 not lighting the box office on fire, Hooper did mostly television work and one of his coolest shows was a 1991 TV show (hosted by Leonard Nimoy!) called Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories where he dramatized the events of the haunted Toys R’ Us in Sunnyvale, California. Now, that story means a lot to me since I saw it on That’s Incredible! when I was tiny. It probably was the first “real” ghost story that I can remember.

tobe hooper haunted toys r us
The image captured during the seance

The ghost story of the haunted Toys R’ Us in Sunnyvale, California involves a farm hand in the Nineteenth Century named Yohnny Yohanson who was in love with the owner of the farm’s daughter named Elizabeth. He loves her, she doesn’t love him, he dies in a tragic accident. One hundred years later, there’s a Toys R’ Us built on the site and strange things start occurring. Famous psychic Sylvia Browne shows up, has a seance, tells everyone the story, and they capture a photo during the seance of a “ghost”. It’s a classic ghost story made for TV and it had a huge impact on me as a kid. The fact that Tobe Hooper made a dramatized version of the events (that had way more inventive camera work and effects for a time than these shows usually had!) blew my mind!

Check out this great in-depth article about the Yohnny, Elizabeth, and the haunted Toys R’ Us that is well worth the read! 

1991 Haunted Lives True Ghost Stories – Episode 1 (Real Ghosts) from Jonathan Moser on Vimeo.

And it’s the Toys R’ Us story that helped us decide on this week’s Sunspot song. “Broken Toy” is a track full of 1980s’ nostalgia, when Tobe Hooper was in his directing prime. In the Texas Chainsaw Massacre it’s Sally Hardesty’s “innocence” that saves her, which is  one of the most common tropes of slasher films that followed (deftly parodied in the third act of the first Scream film), but still relatively novel back in 1974. The main thrust of this track is how once youthful innocence is lost, nothing is eve quite the same.

I opened a box of toys I broke,
and the ones that have broken me.Cruising in my lego car,
and Jem was my favorite star,
But I fell in love with a girl,
from a galaxy far, far away.
Hey boy, where did you go?
Life ain’t that simple, don’t you know?
And the Duke boys couldn’t get away,
when I painted in shades of grey.Don’t look me in the eye,
I can’t take what it makes me see.
It opens a box of toys I broke,
and the ones that have broken me.
It reminds me too much,
of the way things used to be.
I can’t play with a broken toy,
I can’t live on a memory.

Ronnie’s got a million guns,
Protecting us from Mao Tse Tsung,
but I don’t want to think about,
”The Day After” today.
Hey boy, what did you say?
Can Voltron make it all okay?
Or will my faith that ran away,
bump into me someday?

Don’t look me in the eye,
I can’t take what it makes me see.
It opens a box of toys I broke,
and the ones that have broken me.
It reminds me too much,
of the way things used to be.
I can’t play with a broken toy,
I can’t live on a memory.

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