Tag Archives: zak bagans

237 – Curses: From Evil Eyes to Jinxed Buildings

Since the Academy Awards were this weekend, we thought we’d do a uick update to our Oscar Love Curse episode that we recorded the same time last year (and to quote another Academy Award nominee from this year, another one bites the dust… Sorry, Brie Larson, you’re the latest victim of the Oscar Love Curse!)

But celebrities are just one of the many things that people are superstitious about and we all do it to some extent. Have you ever called some piece of clothing like your tie or your hat or even your socks, “lucky”?

Do you ever perform a little ritual before doing something important? Maybe shave a certain way because the last time you did it that way, you had an amazing date? Or listen to a certain song because it gets you pumped up and you feel you need that confidence? That’s just basic human nature. We do things to try and convince our mind that success is on the way, it’s just a little bit of magical thinking in our lives, but sometimes it seems to help.

But what happens when something horrible happens to you while you’re wearing a certain t-shirt or a pair of shoes or while a song is playing in the background? Do those things become “unlucky”? Well, that’s the question we tackle today as we discuss curses!

In this episode, Wendy and I are joined by Scott Markus from WhatsYourGhostStory.com, Allison Jornlin from HawaiiParacon.com, and paranormal author C.E. Martin (check out his Stranger Than Fiction book!) to talk about strange cases of cursed objects, people, and even bulidings!

You can give someone the Evil Eye and not even know it…

Allison has done some research into the Italian Evil Eye called Il Malocchio and it can curse you without the person even knowing it. Often the eye is caused when someone looks at you with envy or extreme jealousy.

Some families have special rituals to combat Il Malocchio but they are kept very secret and can only be passed on one night of the year. In Ronnie James Dio’s family, he was taught that throwing up your rock fist was actually a defense against the Evil Eye and that’s one of the reasons he chose it as his onstage symbol and it’s now been assimilated into the rest of heavy metal culture.

C.E. Martin (here’s his author page on Amazon) has had his own experiences with three curses in his life and he describes them here in his own words:

1. I was cursed at birth. My paternal grandmother, a member of the cultish “Eastern Star” organization, actually showed up at the hospital after I was born and proclaimed to everyone that she wished I’d been still-born. She hated my parents eloping, and took it out on my my entire life–until I was an adult and I realized I didn’t have to take her $%^T anymore. 

2. I’m fairly certain my ghost stories book is cursed (Mike’s note: he’s talking about Stranger Than Fiction, but don’t be scared, it’s a great book!) Writing it took more than two years, filled with bad luck: my daughter’s scoliosis diagnosis, the ensuing therapy and surgery, my wife being in a car wreck, my fall down the stairs at home, my dog unexpectedly dying, my title being stolen, and my recent banning online for mentioning it on paranormal forums (to name a few of the calamities in that period). Best of all, the other day, as I was leaving work, I was thinking about the book as I walked toward the exit from the law office. I was wondering how I could promote the book’s 2 free days online. My thoughts were interrupted when not one, but two large pigeons flew into/rammed the glass of a large picture window I was walking toward, one right after the other. (they bounced off, recovered and landed safely on some nearby power lines). Definitely an omen of the banning that was coming the next morning. 

3. A friend in the USAF removed a Nazi SS ceremonial dagger from a bunker in Italy that US forces opened up after the Italians had sealed it following WWII. The bunker had sat, sealed up for decades. US Forces were examining using it, and my pal was doing security on the site. He decided to stroll around inside and found it abandoned–as in, everything was there as if the Nazi’s had just teleported away or something. So he took a souveneir. Over the next few years, he had a whole string of terrible luck, including  his child getting some kind of strange fever that resulted in brain damage (the little boy was borderline mentally retarded after that and had lots of developmental problems). Eventually, my friend buried the dagger in the backyard of his base-housing quarters right before he and his family moved to their next base. The bad luck did not follow them. 

https://amzn.to/2SqX4Mf

In Scott’s book, Voices From The Chicago Grave, he talks about the curse of ‘Cap’ Streeter. George Wellington Streeter was a boat captain who was ferrying passengers from Milwaukee to Chicago on Lake Michigan when a storm capsized his boat near where Superior Drive is in modern Chicago. At the time, however, it was just a sandbar on the edge of the lake. Cap decided to stay there, claim it as his own (even independent from the United States) and made a living by creating a shantytown and garbage heap there. Following scuffles with local law enforcement and some time in jail, Cap cursed the area and some very weird and sad things have happened in the locality since.

Elma Lockwood, George Cap Streeter, and Spot

We also discuss my trip to the Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, where you can see a variety of “cursed” objects from Ed Gein’s Cauldron to Jerry Lewis’ clown costume from a movie he thought was so bad that he never released it (and indeed said that he would not let it be shown until years after his death) The Day The Clown Cried.

Here’s the waiver that you sign at Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum

While we were waiting in line, my wife saw a girl with waist length brown hair and a blue/grey dress running across the parking lot, and then <poof> there was no little girl there. She said the girl looked 5 or 6 years old. I missed the entire thing because I was working on the waiver that you see above, but it was interesting because it was outside and not anywhere near the cursed objects.

Bagans does claim that the mansion is haunted, so maybe it was some kind of residual energy from the family that lived there for decades before it was turned into the museum. We looked for pictures (they talk about the family and the original house’s owner, Cyril S. Wengert, on the tour) and did find several photographs but none seemed to match up to the girl.

Either way, I was jealous! The weirdest thing I saw was a marionette that semed to move on its own and I had guides tell me conflicting stories about whether it was animatronic, or it had moved when the guide bumped the stage, or it was a ghost(!) So, that experience could be chalked up to whatever I choose to believe.

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Welcome to the Demon House!

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And it seems that’s how curses live and die, by what we choose to believe. That seemed like a good message for a song, that we’re always struggling against our own heads. They say there are only seven different kinds of conflict in storytelling and while one of them might be “Man vs. Supernatural”, it seems like the battle that is most applicable when you’re fighting a curse is “Man Vs. Self”. Conquering your own fears and superstitions is what this week’s song is all about.

this is our jihad
our fight is a spiritual war
battling our basest instinct
it’s so hard to ignore
and we’ll take that to the morgue
The fortune tellers will predict
but your conviction is the trick
superstitious fiction
don’t let yourself be deceived
a curse as good as you believe

Devour the cowards
drunk on the will to power
Man vs. Self we go down mean
The toughest fight you’ll ever face
is taking on the whims of fate
be more than the dice roll of your genes

Don’t believe everything you read
you don’t need everything you see
you’re more than your credit score
don’t buy in when you should drop out
don’t forget what it’s all about
These are the moments that define
these are the times that will go down
history to the victor
don’t you mess around
you better make your seconds count

Devour the cowards
drunk on the will to power
Man vs. Self we go down mean
The toughest fight you’ll ever face
is taking on the whims of fate
you’re more than the dice roll of your genes

236 – The Sound Of The Supernatural: Music And Metaphysics With Praga Khan From Lords of Acid

Music is universal across human culture. Doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you from, singing and dancing is an essential part of the human experience, just ask Kevin Bacon…

If anyone ever asks you about cocaine consumption in the 1980s, just point them here…

There was a video that made the rounds a few years ago that showed normally unresponsive Alzheimer’s Patients reacting to the music of their youth. And it underlines the point that songs can activate a part of our brain that conscious interaction cannot get to. Frank Zappa famously called “writing about music” like “dancing about architecture”, because you’re trying to describe something through reading and writing that can only be experienced through listening. We’ve talked about binaural beats before (and even created a Star Trek-inspired binaural beats song!), which are two frequencies played in each ear that are a different pitch by a certain number of Hertz, your mind processes that difference and according to an automatic process in our brains called “Frequency Following Response” will start producing brainwaves at that Hertz.

And these brainwaves are associated with different states of consciousness, such as meditation and deep sleep. So, science has shown that music provides a natural and automatic way to alter your consciousness. But we knew how to do this long before we had the technology to measure Hertz, we did it through rituals and dance.

When we talked with Dean Radin about his book, Real Magic, the real lesson that stuck is that magic actually can work, but that the ceremony is the most important part of it. Somehow, it’s the going through the motions that puts your mind into gnosis (A Greek word that means to literally “knowledge”), which is an altered state of consciousness that seems to be key in creating real changes in the brain, where psychic phenomena (“magic”) can happen.

That seems to be a modern explanation for something that Shamans have known for millennia. In fact, research has even been done into how altered states of consciousness can play a role in Native American healing and how they achieve those states is through music and dance.

We also talk about the tradition of the sweat lodges, a ritual meant to promote healing, where participants sit in a small hut that gets hotter and hotter while being led in sacred prayer and songs by tribal elders. There is also the jingle dress dance which is a sacred dance of healing that was popularized in the Twentieth Century by a girl who performed the dance to save her own life from the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918… and it worked!

Interestingly enough, when it comes to rituals, you don’t even have to be the one performing the most extreme part to feel the most altered. Being there might be good enough. In fact, there was a study done about extreme rituals (where some of the participants were dancing and some others were temporarily piercing their bodies) and they found that the piercers didn’t necessarily achieve any greater altered state than the non-piercers. To the surprise of the researchers, every participant seemed to have been affected by the ritual in an equal way.

And when it comes to extreme rituals and altered states and dancing, the first thing we think about in the modern world is a rave. Hours of non-stop dancing, drugs, and crazy costumes, all add up to a recipe where people can enter this particular state.

Belgian electronic musician Praga Khan is probably best known for his outrageous techno and industrial act, Lords of Acid. With hits like “Pussy” and “I Must Increase My Bust”, them, they’re known for tongue-in-cheek sexually charged dance anthems.

As Praga says in the interview, when Lords of Acid come to a city it’s a chance for that town to let their freak flag fly. People get dressed up in fetish gear and come out to celebrate . We talked to him to preview his show in Milwaukee at the Miramar Theatre on March 7th, but we also wanted to discuss the album he made with Zak Bagans called NecroFusion, where Zak sent Praga EVPs and then the musician put beats behind them (even Bobby Mackey makes a guest vocal appearance!)

For this episode’s song, we wanted to make sure to capture some of the ridiculous oversexed raver energy that made the Lords of Acid so much fun in the first place. We thought we’d leave subtlety far far behind and just go ahead and say what they didn’t on the NecroFusion album, I want some “Ghost Sex”!

I’m gonna haunt ya
scare the pants off ya
I think tonight you’ll believe
A spooky surprise
you might not believe your eyes
when you see what’s under Casper’s sheet

Ghost sex
I want some ghost sex
Ghost sex
I want some ghost sex
Get down with a phantasm
A face full of ectoplasm
Yeah I’m gonna do it with a specter tonight.
This apparition is a freakin
And you’ve got my K2 peakin’
A paranormal lover from the other side

you might be a little scared
if you’re unprepared
I’m gonna capture you on EVP
But don’t get creeped out
tonight I’m gonna find out
just why they call her “The Brown Lady”

Ghost sex
I want some ghost sex
Ghost sex
I want some ghost sex

Get down with a phantasm
A face full of ectoplasm
Yeah I’m gonna do it with a specter tonight.
This apparition is a freakin
And you’ve got my K2 peakin’
A paranormal lover from the other side

234 – Serial Killers Are Not Hot: The Ghost of Ted Bundy

After being dead for almost three decades, serial killer Ted Bundy is back in the news. Of course, true crime TV shows are in big time since Making A Murderer set the world on fire three years ago, so Netflix is continuing the trend with their come series, Confessions of a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. It’s the first thing you see when you open Netflix and people are reacting to it.

Now Ted Bundy was a charismatic guy in real life and he’s been played by Hollywood heartthrob Mark Harmon and is there’s currently a movie where he’s going to be played by former teen idol, Zac Efron. So many people have been commenting about how good-looking this brutal serial killer/rapist/necrophiliac was, that Netflix this week had to issue a statement letting people know that talking about how Ted Bundy is attractive is not really that cool.

So, Ted is back in the news, but that’s not the only reason. Jumping in on the trend, Ghost Adventures  star Zak Bagans just bought Ted Bundy’s glasses for $50,000 so that he can display them in his haunted museum in Las Vegas. That’s almost twice what he paid for the Demon House in Gary, Indiana.

Now there’s no guarantee that Ted Bundy actually wore the glasses, but they did find them in a car that he had stolen, so chances are that they’re his. Is it a cursed object? Well, the jury is still out, but people have been seeing Ted Bundy’s ghost since shortly after he was executed. In fact, the story goes that so many guards were seeing his ghost in the electric chair that they refused to enter the execution room alone. Other guards say that he was taunting them from beyond the grave, saying things like “Well, I beat you guys, didn’t I?” Messed up. Reminds me of Horace Pinker from Wes Craven’s criminally underrated Shocker, where the killer is about to be electrocuted and they ask him, “Does the prisoner have any final words?” and he replies, “Yeah, no more Mr. Nice Guy.”

The Megadeth version of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” on the Shocker soundtrack is Epic as well!

My sister Allison closed out the episode by also brings out an interesting story she heard this week about how former New Age guru Doreen Virtue turned around and renounced her former Pagan ways and became a Born Again Christian. She says that all the stuff she used to believe in was actually a pathway to The Devil and Doreen’s recent blogpost, “An A-Z List of New Age Practices to Avoid, And Why” proceeds to tell us why everything from Harry Potter to Yoga are evil and anti-Christian.

Well, that blogpost wasn’t about to go unanswered and Warlock Christian Day decided to rebut her alphabetical proclamations with his own blogpost, “A Former New-Ager Turned Fundie Christian Wackjob To Avoid, And Why”. It’s always a pleasure to read good writers debate each other, especially when we’re talking about magic and religion. Sometimes it’s just fun to argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. And when you get through both articles, it seems like the only thing that these two can agree on is that faeries are dangerous. And I think that’s something even Ozzy can agree with!

Also, in this episode we wanted to follow up a little bit on last episode’s conversation about the guy that ran through the gates at the Nevada National Security Site (the former Nevada Nuclear Test Site). To me it seemed that it was unthinkable to roll through the security gates at a military facility because you’re just going to be killed onsite, but it sounds like it happens a lot more than we think (this one was just reported by the news.) One of our Patreon members (and frequent idea contributors!), author C.E. Martin let us know in an email exactly how and why these security breaches happen more often than we think, here’s what he wrote:

1. Someone who wants to do mischief.

I once hear a story of a base in where the Swords to Plowshares group cut through the fence and stormed onto an alert area, some maniac running toward a B-5 with a sledge hammer. He actually reached the plane and managed to get several swings in on it. The guard in a tower watching over these alert-ready, engines-running, nuclear laden bombers had fallen asleep. Thankfully, the guards on foot saw it and stopped the hippy terrorist before too much damage was done (to the plane–the intruder did not fare very well, surviving the beating they took, but just barely).

2. Someone who wants to protest.

Shortly after Desert Storm, my base in Germany, Rhein Main (Frankfurt) was the central air hub for anything going from the eastern US to the Gulf. We had heightened security and a regular assortment of protestors at our gates. One night, when I was actually off duty (after months of no days off, we finally got to work a 6-and-1 as everything came back from the Gulf). Again, it was some group like Swords and Plowshares (or maybe it was them again) cut through the fence and brought an entrourage onto the base–including a camel! They were stopped relatively quickly just inside the fence. They were also fortunate enough not to have gotten roughed up too bad, I was told. (I was sure mad I missed this crazy occurrence).

3. Mistaken travel.

In California, (McClellan AFB, in Sacramento) we were at the end of a major roadway. People often got turned around and ended up at that gate asking for directions. This was the back side of the base–the opposite side being near the highway. People were trying to get to that highway, but the base was in the way. One night, a drunk driver drove through the fence, dodging the gateshack he almost ran over. He ended up on the runway (which he later confessed he thought was the highway) and almost struck the Sacramento Sheriff’s helicopter that had been coming in to refuel for patrol (they rented hangar space from the USAF). I was the closest patrol and got to drive hellbent for leather (something we NEVER were supposed to do) past airplanes and hangars and out onto the runway to get to this guy. With the day-time-like helicopter light’s assistance, i found the truck crashed into a huge drainage ditch at the far end of the runway, and snagged the perp, who had a partially-consumed case of beer in his truck with him. There’s more to that story about toxic waste, me ruining a pair of boots, and almost breaking the guy’s wrists, but I’ll save it for another time…

4. Refusal to follow orders.

Anyone coming onto a military base is subject to search and seizure. Your constitutional rights are suspended when it comes to that. This is to prevent bombs and what not from coming on and damaging resources. Occasionally, someone doesn’t want to comply with a vehicle search (they were picked at random when I was in). In my case, again, back in Germany, an Army sergeant decided he wasn’t going to comply and started to race forward. I jumped in front of his car and put my hand on my gun (he later claimed i drew my pistol, but I don’t think I did). He turned the car around and sped away. This was a back gate on the base, leading directly into the housing area. I called it in and patrols went searching for him… and found him very quick. In his haste to escape, he had lost control of his fancy short-dick sports car and crashed it into a guard rail, doing a considerable amount of damage. He was brought back onto the base, I confirmed his identity and, long story short, he was dishonorably discharged for the whole incident (I think he was also driving drunk or something–can’t recall that part).

Now, while these are just four stories, I assure you, running the gate, while not a “regular” occurrence, is common enough not to be unheard of. During Desert Storm, back in Germany again, we anticipated this problem to the point that at both the main gate and Crash Shortdick’s base housing gate, we had two special patrols parked and ready: Ram-1 and Ram-2. Ram-1 was an armored car, Ram:2 was a regular Humvee. The role of the person sitting in these vehicles, engines running for 12 hour shifts (minus a brief swap out for refueling), was to RAM any vehicle running the gate, to prevent them from reaching anywhere on base. Side note, when the air war kicked off in January 1991, I was actually manning Ram-1 at the main gate. Several of the wives of guys in our unit, who regularly helped bring everyone sandwiches and snacks and stuff while we were on duty, went out and delivered the news that the air war had started.

C.E. Martin, author, USAF vet, and former criminal investigator

Quick hits for other things we mention in the podcast:

For the song this episode, we were thinking about how being a ghost wouldn’t be that great. You’re always stuck hanging around the places that you used to live and work, or worse were killed. After all, Ted Bundy isn’t haunting the sites of his infamous murders, he’s haunting the place where he himself was executed for his crimes. Or maybe now he’s going to haunt Zak Bagans’ museum, roaming around a bunch of musty artifacts and interacting with tourists looking to “touch” some piece of morbid history. Movies and TV shows always treat immortality as a curse more than a blessing, so would it be any fun to be a ghost if you were just an observer? That’s the idea behind this week’s track, “I Don’t Wanna Be A Ghost”.

I don’t want to be a ghost
I just want to be a man
I don’t want to hear my friends
When I cannot talk to them
I’ll be right behind the wall
and I’ll wait for you to call my name

I used to want to come back as a spirit,
and be in some romantic tragedy
I’d be Patrick Swazye and you would be my sweet Demi.

If we can’t be together
who wants to live forever
when you’re just looking right through me,
If I will always be lonely
there’s no point in eternity and
I can see you looking right through me

I don’t want to be a ghost
I just want to be a man
I don’t want to hear my friends
When I cannot talk to them
I’ll be right behind the wall
and I’ll wait for you to call my name

I could walk the earth as a phantom
and be an orb in your phone photos
Scaring all the people who never came to my gravestone

What’s the point of a soul
if there’s no one to make you whole
A spectral spectator that’s bored with immortality.

If we can’t be together
who wants to live forever
when you’re just looking right through me,
If I will always be lonely
there’s no point in eternity and
I can see you looking right through me

I don’t want to be a ghost
I just want to be a man
I don’t want to hear my friends
When I cannot talk to them
I’ll be right behind the wall
and I’ll wait for you to call my name

189 – Portal To Hell: Zak Bagans vs. Demon House

The story of the demonic possession of three children in Gary, Indiana in 2011 is one of the most compelling paranormal stories of the Twenty-First Century. What started off with a black fly infestation starts manifesting itself in strange behavior from the children, from dangerous imaginary friends to threats and strange voices. A local clairvoyant claims that there’s up to 200 demons who are active in the house.

Unlike most supernatural tales where the police don’t quite believe in it or the doctors immediately find some other explanation, the story of LaToya Ammons’ children is backed by the authorities. A worker from Child Protective Services sees one of the children climb the wall and launch over his grandmother, the local police captain believes his squad car is acting strangely, a local priest feels threatened and that the demons not only got into his computer but endangered him on a bike ride.

It becomes a major story in the age of Internet tabloids and there’s no surprise that a paranormal reality show celebrity would get involved. In 2014, Zak Bagans from Ghost Adventures purchases the home in order to make a documentary there. And four years later, we have Demon House.

demon house

Of course we had to check the movie out opening weekend! We had met the priest involved in the case at the nearby Chicago Paranormal Convention in 2015 and Darkness Dave Schrader from Beyond The Darkness podcast was freaked out enough that he wouldn’t even tell me the demon’s name when we were out at a bar. Zak Bagans ended up demolishing the house in 2016, but what did he find there? He had years to make the movie, how many investigations did he go on there, just how many nights did he spend in the Demon House?!

Well, the answer is not many. We don’t even get a proper interview with LaToya Ammons or her family because she’s bound by a exclusivity agreement with a different company making a movie about the case. The best we get is her brother. The priest Father Michael Maginot shows up as does Gary Police Captain Charles Austin, who steals the movie with his rendition of what he says he heard over his car radio, a mysterious voice shouting “Who in der?!”

We also get former tenants (whose daughter ends up with some strange activity on her own and Father Maginot has to bless that family), the landlord, squatters living in the house, and Barry Taff from The Entity. 

Demon House
Oh no, the Goatman!

The strangest thing is probably the mysterious 12-Foot tall Demonic Goat that Bagans has seen in his dreams. Even the minds of Zak’s crew end up getting messed with by the Goatman, but unfortunately the re-enactments with this fearsome beast  mostly just made me think about the Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks Dragnet film.

I’ve been critical of Zak Bagans and his confrontational investigative style in the past, but the man often knows how to create compelling television entertainment. So, how do his dramatic re-enactments, goat costumery, and paranormal evidence captured on film hold up? Well, you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out as Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts, Scott Markus from What’s Your Ghost Story.com and Wendy and I discuss our experience in the Demon House. 

(Full disclosure: there might have been a drinking game involved when we watched the movie!)

We’ve never recorded a rap-metal song before so we figured this episode would be the perfect opportunity to get our best Fred Durst and Kid Rock on. Turn those hats backwards, yo, Sunspot is goin’ to the “Demon House”.

Welcome to the Demon House
Who in der?
You’re in the Demon House

Yeah something totally whack happened to an innocent family,
You better watch this at your own risk cuz evil’s coming through your TV

Yo, you know I had to buy this house
Sight unseen baby
There’s 200 spirits creeping around
And not one chips in for the heat.
I go on the Ghost Adventures and seen all kinds of Forteana
I thought I was going to Hell but it’s just Gary Indiana

Welcome to the Demon House
Who in der?
You’re in the Demon House

There’s shadows and there’s black flies and kids climbing up the walls
There’s a pain wracking my brain and messing with my eyeballs

Yo, this place scores an 8
on the demon scale
It’s a portal that goes straight to Hell
Just like Sunnydale.

Old guys getting organ failure and the Devil’s messing with my crew,
Who’s down there in the basement.
It’s the Goatman coming for you!

Welcome to the Demon House
Who in der?
You’re in the Demon House
You even lift, bro?
Welcome to the Demon House
Oh God, it’s the Goatman
You’re in the Demon House
Demon House.

152 – Haunted History in New England: A Conversation with Jeff Belanger

Jeff Belanger is one of New England’s premier haunted historians. Well known for his work with Ghost Adventures (he was one of the guys who found the haunted places and looked for witnesses willing to discuss their experiences), Jeff also hosted the online show Thirty Odd Minutes, has written fourteen books on hauntings, and was Emmy-nominated for his work on the PBS series, New England Legends (now available to watch on Amazon Prime!)

jeff belanger ghost adventures
Jeff Belanger looking like a total badass!

Growing up in Connecticut near Ed and Lorraine Warren (he even got to hang out at their house!), Jeff found himself fascinated with the paranormal at an early age. He started the popular ghost story site, Ghost Village in 1999 which is easily one of the largest paranormal resources on the Internet. Since then, he’s been writing books, hosting TV shows , and even climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (which we get to in this episode).

Jeff Belanger 30 odd minutes zombie t-shirt
Jeff on 30 Odd Minutes, with an awesome t-shirt!

In this conversation Jeff shares his first real-life ghostly encounter in the Catacombs of Paris, some of his favorite New England ghost stories and legends, the inspiration behind his mountain climbing in Africa, and why Sandy Hook Truthers are sadly mistaken.

One of the stories that Jeff told us that really resonated with me was the story of Mercy Brown, a girl who died of tuberculosis in Exeter, Rhode Island in 1892. Her mother and older sister also died of tuberculosis and  then brother came down with it, so the people of Exeter believed that there was a vampire that was cursing the family. They dug up the bodies to see, but since it was wintertime and Mercy was being kept above ground (they had to wait for the ground to thaw to bury her), she was not as decomposed as they thought she should be. Also, as her body was more fresh so it still had blood in the liver and heart, which made them believe she was a vampire.

jeff belanger mercy brown vampire ghosts
The grave of Mercy Brown

They believed that they could end the vampiric curse and save her brother by ripping out her heart, burning it, and feeding him the ashes, so they did. And it didn’t work, two months after eating his sister’s burned heart, Edwin Brown succumbed to the disease as well. That seemed like an excellent inspiration for a track, because looking at it from today’s perspective, the whole adventure seems so misguided. All they did was drag Edwin and poor Mercy’s father through Hell by digging up the bodies of the people he loved and make him believe that his daughter was a hellish abomination. Let the dead rest. Things are better left buried in the past. Mercy’s father went through all that turmoil, he made his son eat his own daughter’s burned out heart and it was all pointless anyway. That’s the inspiration for this track, “Digging Up The Dead”.

Rusty nails and rotten wood
And earth in every seam
I spit the dirt out of my mouth
I wake up from a dream to
Be thirsty like I’ve never been
A constant agony
With the black dog that walks at my back
And damns my memory.
Lord grant us mercy from afar,
forgive the prayers we should have said,
Oh you can burn up my heart,
and eat the ashes that are left,
But you’re just digging up the dead.
You’re just digging up the dead.
The things that should be left alone
They’re not for man to touch
The past is just a shallow grave,
That’s best left in the dust.
We keep kicking the pale horse,
’til the blood just turns to rust.
No, you can’t beat the Devil,
By remembering too much.
Lord grant us mercy from afar,
forgive the prayers we should have said,
Oh you can burn up my heart,
and eat the ashes that are left,
But you’re just digging up the dead.

Too Many Ghost Hunters?

An interesting story from CNN this week about the proliferation of ghost investigation groups across the United States since the dawn of the Ghost Hunters in 2004. And not only how ghost investigation groups are hitting the mainstream now but that because there’s so many groups and only so many TV spots and haunted places, that these teams are going into competition against each other for attention.

zak balans hardbody
I know people love Zak Bagans but did he just ask me, “Do you even lift, bro?”

And it’s true, like comic books, the world of the paranormal has gone from a geeky subculture to big business because producers saw dollar signs. Reality TV is cheap to produce (no matter how much these paranormal investigative groups make off each episode, it’s still nothing compared to a scripted show. There’s no Screen Actors Guild for reality TV stars.) Since the Ghost Hunters debuted, it’s been one more paranormal show after another, from college research groups like Paranormal State to following around a couple of Chicago police officers known as the Paranormal Cops (worth watching for the lovely Chi-cah-go accents alone.)

When I was a kid I would have loved to see all these shows about ghost hunters on the air. When That’s Incrediblehad a seance (with psychic Sylvia Browne!) inside a Toys ‘R Us, it was the most captivating thing that I ever saw.

But now, I can be hardly bothered to watch most of the paranormal shows. I’ve known people who’ve been on reality shows and they’ve told me how much of it is scripted.  We’ve interviewed people who have been featured on haunted specials and they are told to stick to the script no matter what. You just need to take everything you see on TV (including That’s Incredible even if it does feature Pro Football Hall of Famer, Fran Tarkenton, who always sounded like a very reasonable man to me!) with a massive grain of salt. It’s TV, they’re not on a mission to find the truth, they’re on a mission to get viewers so they can sell more ads.

And that’s okay, because it means it’s up to us to decide what to believe and not believe. And the competition is good because it means that hopefully more clear-headed investigations with thorough historical research can win out over guys just yelling at the air while waving around EMF sensors.

I’m all about entertainment, but it’s important to draw a distinction. Before ghost hunters were cool, most of us experienced some kind of ridicule for thinking this stuff was awesome. It’s important not to blend the “entertainment” part of it all (like movies, even great scary movies like The Conjuring that nonetheless stretch the facts) from actual investigation and research, which requires sources of local legends and trying to maintain some reasonable amount of scientific conditions in the field. That means a lot of sitting in the library and a lot of sitting in dark, cold rooms in old houses. But that’s what we signed up for.

Anyway, I love all these new ghost hunters and paranormal investigators because it brings you guys here to our little podcast, blog, and music – as well as to my haunted history tours, so I say, keep the competition coming!