Tag Archives: urban legends

203 – Hunting Urban Legends: An Interview with Joshua Zeman

When you’re growing up, the world outside your home is a scary place. It’s full of drug addicts, gang members, child molesters, and serial killers. There’s a sicko with a cargo van hanging around outside your school. There’s a psycho with hook for a hand who preys on young lovers. There’s a weirdo who gets off on sneaking needles into your Halloween candy for a real Trick or Treat surprise.

Urban legends are lessons hidden in horror stories. They’re just “stranger danger” in narrative form. As a powerless child against the wicked world, you need to be warned about not getting into unknown vans, about being careful who you accept gifts from, and about not getting it on at Make-Out Point. These tales of the poor souls who didn’t heed these warnings make for a memorable reminder of what can happen when you stray too far from the path.

Growing up pre-Internet, there was no Snopes.com to check out the veracity of these stories. You could go to the library and meander through thousands of newspaper microfilms and microfiches (do they even teach kids how to use microfiche anymore?) to find out, but nobody was going to do that. You kind of just filed it in the back of your mind as a story meant to keep you from getting into trouble and it usually only entered your mind when you were wandering around in the woods or were rummaging through your Halloween candy.

I always knew that most urban legends contained a kernel of truth because my mother was a horror story specialist. Her cautionary tales about child murderers and bus stop rapists were ripped right from the headlines that her sharp memory wouldn’t let her forget. She could recall details from a newspaper article from a dozen years previous, especially if it was gruesome. When I was told a scary story as a warning, I knew that it wasn’t just a myth, there was something to it. And we lived near Milwaukee, so those serial killer legends weren’t just a rumor, we had Jeffrey Dahmer himself.

Joshua Zeman
Joshua Zeman, filmmaker and legend tripper

Joshua Zeman grew up in New York City’s Staten Island with the legend of “Cropsey”. Cropsey was a deranged mental patient who escaped the Willowbrook mental institution (the largest asylum in the United States at the time and notorious for its foul living conditions) and lived somewhere in the woods on the 375-acre facility. When a kid disappeared in Staten Island, it was Cropsey who was blamed for sneaking out of the forest and abducting the child. The tall tale even inspired two 80s slasher films, The Burning and Madman.

In the late 2000s, long fascinated with horror stories, he decided to make a documentary film about the legend of Cropsey. While doing so, he discovered the kernel of truth that birthed the legend and got rave reviews from Roger Ebert to The New York Times doing so. Cropsey‘s success led him to partner up with filmmaker Rachel Mills  on another film about exploring popular urban myths called Killer Legends where they tackle the murderer with the hook for a hand, poison Halloween candy, why clowns are scary, and the babysitter nightmare where “the call is coming from inside the house!”

I first saw Cropsey on Hulu a couple years back and I was hooked and devoured Killer Legends immediately after. He and Rachel followed that up with the true crime documentary The Killing Season which was an A&E series on the hunt for the Long Island Serial Killer. Our friend Scott Markus from WhatsYourGhostStory.com knew Josh so he hooked us up and I got to talk to him about his storytelling and his movies as we dive into these topics:

  • What is universal about urban legends across our culture
  • What is the purpose behind giving these nicknames to serial killers?
  • Why are we drawn to these horrific morality plays?
  • What’s the most surprising thing that Josh found in his research of urban legends across America?
  • What is the story behind the world’s loneliest creature, the 52-hertz whale?

Josh Zeman – Twitter

Cropsey – Facebook

Cropsey – On AMAZON

The Killing Season – On AMAZON

The Killing Season – On A&E

Killer Legends – On AMAZON

Killer Legends – ON NETFLIX

The song this week is inspired by Josh’s films, a tune that could work as a spooky soundtrack about finding the truth behind urban myths

Every story’s the same

no matter where you go to

It’s just the names that have  changed

but they can’t hide the truth

when you’re out playing games

deadly eyes are watching you

it’s the hook for a hand

that’ll skin you alive

it’s the white paneled van

beckoning you inside

Brutal is this land

where the innocent die

Every town has a secret
and every bridge has a troll
and every one among us
has a little stain on their soul

168 – Stranger Things and Soul Cakes: Facts You Didn’t Know About Halloween

Hey, it’s Halloween time again and we’ve been watching Stranger Things 2  to get in the mood for our favorite holiday. Especially because the new show takes place during the Halloween of 1984.  And while we’ve explored Halloween a couple times in the past, including the urban legends that surround the holiday and an in-depth discussion of the phenomenon of Devil’s Night, there’s still plenty that we can learn about the holiday.

stranger things milwaukee paranormal conference
Outside the Jabberwocky’s Ball at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference – Wendy and I are hanging out with our friends Corey from Phantasmagoria Photo and Scott Markus from What’s Your Ghost Story.com It was a Alice in Wonderland-themed event, so we went simple with the costumes!

So, with all the nostalgia of Stranger Things 2 from Ghostbusters to Dragon’s Lair, we decided to reminisce a little about our own Halloweens past as well as look to discover some facts that we didn’t know before about the Holiday. And we did! From soul cakes to snapdragon, Allhallowtide to the origin of the word “bonfire”, we cover a ton of little known fact about the best holiday out there.

Plus we even uncover a new story (to us) about the 1980s’ Satanic Panic! There’s tons of fun in our 2017 Halloween special.

If you’re looking for fun songs to enjoy for Halloween, look no further than our Sunspot Halloween playlist – we’re counting down our personal favorite songs that are perfect for the Holiday! Follow our Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/othersidepodcast to see all of the songs!

This week’s Sunspot track is inspired but the nostalgia of Stranger Things because we’re going back to the Junior High Fall dance. This industrial-ish number is all about how the little things of your youth, like your first heartbreak or your first kiss can affect the rest of your life, for good or for bad. We’re an accumulation of our experiences and our emotional reactions are often developed by events that happened to us when we were very different people. It’s hard to escape that “Ancient History”.

The little boy was glassy eyed
they kissed on the pumpkin hayride
just another notch on her notebook
he wrote a note in seventh hour
he passed it on through her best friend
but in phy ed is where it would sour
he would never be the same
his heart was bitter now
all his lungs inflamed
she knew what she was doing to him
Ancient history
always sneaks up on you
ancient history
will never let you go
ancient history
remembers every putdown
ancient history
always comes round
The little girl was terrified
and at the harvest dance, he lied
when he whispered a secret in her ear
She thought she was gonna die,
but the parking lot was just so big
And then there was nowhere that    to hide.
she would never be the same
her heart was bitter now
all her lungs inflamed
and he knew what he was doing to her
Ancient history
always sneaks up on you
ancient history
will never let you go
ancient history
remembers every putdown
ancient history
always comes round

115 – Deadly Candy: Legends and History of Halloween

Since it’s our favorite time of year, we thought we’d spend an episode talking about the history of Halloween, our favorite Halloween legends, Halloween costumes, and share some personal Halloween stories.

Speak of the Devil… Sunspot’s 2000 Halloween costume was positively “horny” nyuk nyuk nyuk
Halloween 2000 Ben
Have no fear, friends, that’s not a real cobweb!
And for Halloween that year, I went as a guy with two chins!
And for Halloween that year, Mike went as a guy with two chins!

From the ancient Celts of the British Isles  and theirAutumn Samhain festival which they believed was the time where the veil between the worlds of this life and the next was super thin to the origin of the world Halloween (think All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Souls’ Day!), we cover all you need to know about everyone’s favorite dressing up holiday (and how that holiday used to be on Thanksgiving instead!)

Scottish Sunspot on Halloween 2000!
Scottish Sunspot on Halloween 2000!

We’ve gone as a lot of group costumes for Halloween and talk about some of the best costumes we’ve seen at the various shows we’ve played to celebrate the holiday. The Sunspot Witch Project, which was our Halloween costume in 2001 was a fun one because all we had to do was recycle our flannels that were left in our closets from living int the mid-1990s. Just add a hat like Doug or Bob McKenzie and instant Halloween costume, ya hosers!

strange brew
Looking’ good in your toques, eh!

mike1 sunspot2 wendy1

Of course we have to delve into the urban legends of Halloween, including the truth behind the needles and pins in candy rumors that traumatized our trick or treating as youths as well as the “dead person mistaken for a Halloween decoration” (spoiler alert: both legends have a real basis in fact!)

Have you seen this boy? Halloween 2004.
Have you seen this boy? Halloween 2004. Wow, and if Mike’s face was any rounder he could have gone as the Pillsbury Terminator!

Mike shares a real-life ghost story and adventure from an abandoned supposedly haunted hotel in Mukwonago, Wisconsin called Rainbow Springs and everyone discusses their favorite Halloween-related shows, from The Great Pumpkin to the unexpectedly terrifying Garfield Halloween Adventure.

Super Sunspot Bros and The Princess!
Super Sunspot Bros and The Princess!

So, sit back and enjoy the episode if you wanna learn all about the history of Halloween and how it became the awesome holiday we celebrate today.

And last but not least, here’s Wendy and Mike as a coupla rockin’ zombies from The Raven’s Ball at this year’s Milwaukee Paranormal Conference.

For this week’s track, we took inspiration from the usual cable TV network Halloween programming, which loves to run specials about Satanism. Satanists embrace Halloween as a time when the rest of the world explores its own darkness and it’s their biggest holiday (besides a Satanist’s birthday!) One of the most talked about Satanic magic spells is the Destruction Ritual, a meditation based on cursing an enemy. It’s their most dangerous rite, and we thought it would make the perfect subject for a song. Take a listen to “Destruction Ritual”.

Hail Satan!
Hail Satan!

Is such a silly cliche.

Vengeance is mine!
Vengeance is mine!
And you can have it anyway.

Let’s play the game where you were never born.
I’d love to watch your demise.
Through these very eyes,
on fire with spite and scorn.

Hail Satan!
Hail Satan!

It just sounds stupid when you say,

Vengeance is mine!
Vengeance is mine!

Cause all this hate will rot your brain.

Let’s play the game where you were never born.
I’d love to watch your demise.
Through these very eyes,
on fire with spite and scorn.

Mind your thoughts and where they tread,
Be careful where you leave your head,
These words are better left unsaid,
Be careful where you leave your head.

Happy Birthday Ed Sheeran, Is There A Ghost Voice In “Thinking Out Loud”?

It’s a big week for famous singing ginger, Ed Sheeran. First, “Thinking Out Loud” wins the Grammy for Song of the Year and then it’s his birthday on February 17th. I first heard his music during the end credits of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug and liked it and I figure if the guy is alright with Peter Jackson, then he’s alright with me.

But the reason that we’re talking about “Thinking Out Loud” today is that people were hearing a “ghost voice” in the track. The moment happens at about 44 seconds into the song.

So, the Internet being the Internet, the rumor quickly went around that the “ghost voice” was actually a spirit who never found love and is sadly singing from the other side.  Or that the studio that the recorded it in was haunted and that it was the spirit who was singing along with Ed in the vocal booth.

This trended on Twitter last year and became a big topic of speculation for his massive teenage fanbase. Kids love ghost stories, cute singers,  and gossiping with their friends about it, so this was kind of a perfect storm.

And of course, when a topic is trending, there’s no reason not to have a little fun with it, here’s a video with over 100,000 hits purporting to analyze the track and find the ghost voice (but it really just contains a jump scare at the end.)

And this weird speech-synthesized video actually explains the whole issue as just an effect of the reverb.

Reverb? I doubt it. Sounds just like he was putting a little extra inflection in his voice with the word, “heart”. I can’t even hear a harmony background vocal in there on the verse. But when you tell people there’s a ghost voice in there and you can only hear it with headphones they start to convince themselves that it’s in there, especially if they listen to that section repeatedly.

I’ve been in the recording studio and have had that same effect. You’re listening closely to something over and over again and you start to hear phantom sounds. An echo or a weird note can show up that’s not really there when you listen to something repeatedly in a short stretch. Your mind starts playing tricks on you, that’s why it’s always recommended to leave for a little while and studio guys have special tricks to “keep their ears fresh“.

Ed, you’re a Grammy winner now, so you can finally afford that comb you always wanted!

The first studio engineer that Sunspot (Wendy and my band, we write a new song for each podcast episode) worked with was named Ted Weigel and we recorded in his Madison, Wisconsin recording studio that’s now long gone and replaced by the Brink Lounge. We would often start recording sessions in the evening and since we were paying the day-rate and didn’t have a lot of money, we’d record for long spells into the next morning.

Ted would always say “my ears are fried” when needing to close a marathon recording session. We’d always laugh to ourselves about that statement. We were still energetic teenagers and didn’t understand yet how your attention and hearing and senses would just get worn out, like a muscle after a hard workout.

I think the only way to hear the ghost voice in this track is to listen to it over and over and convince yourself that it’s there. So to anyone that can still hear the creepy background voice on the word “heart”, I’d say what Ted used to say in the studio so long ago, “take a break, man. Your ears are fried!”