296 – Dark Skies: TV Fact And Fiction with Matthew Kresal

After The X-Files set the world on fire in 1993 and helped establish the fairly new FOX Network as a major player in television, other networks tried to jump on the bandwagon with similarly-themed paranormal shows. There was the small-town horror of American Gothic, the supernatural drama of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the government conspiracy angle of The Pretender, and even David Hasselhoff got in on the action with his “paranormal investigation in paradise” show, Baywatch Nights (and Lou Rawls sang the theme song, c’mon!)

But the show that skewed the closest to The X-Files was a program called Dark Skies, set at the dawn of the UFO age and doubling down upon The X-Files’ pattern of taking real-life paranormal inspiration and turning it into fodder for fiction. The slogan for the show was: “History as we know it is a lie.”

By combining the government conspiracy paranoia of The X-Files with 1960s nostalgia, the Roswell alien craze, and the infamous Majestic 12. It mixed real historical figures with a science fiction story of extraterrestrial invasion and it ended way too soon. With a series pilot directed by Poltergeist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Tobe Hooper and the imprimatur of an appearance by Art Bell himself, it seemed like a sure bet, but it was cancelled after one season.

We talk with Matt Kresal about his new book on the series, finally learning what could have been, and also the real-life paranormal inspirations behind the series.

Some of the topics we cover in this discussion are:

  • How creators Brent V. Friedman and Bryce Zabel created the Dark Skies mythology
  • What did Ronald Reagan’s driver know about UFO disclosure
  • The plan for future seasons of the show to cover more real UFO cases in the 70s, 80s, and 90s
  • The government agents that approached the creators to try and “help them get the facts right”
  • How the CIA and Department of Defense was trying to infiltrate Hollywood to shape the alien narrative

We originally recorded this discussion for a special See You On The Other Side livestream and if you’d like to watch us talk (unedited, so umms and ahhhs intact!) then check out this video:

Matthew Kresal is an absolute wealth of knowledge of classic science fiction television and he was a pleasure to talk to, so you know why the produers and creators of Dark Skies were willing to share so much with him. You can pick up a copy of his book right here and we highly recommend it!

293 – Staying Cool In A Crisis: From Meditation to The Rosary

Horror stories, clickbait, panic porn, your amygdala is constantly getting stimulated nowadays because the media understands that if they activate your fight or flight response, you’ll pay attention. The old saying goes “If it bleeds, it leads” and that applies now more than ever. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic that has kept most of the world inside and glued to TV and social media for two months. We’re constantly surrounded by news stories of how many people are predicted to die, how many deaths are already happening, and how quickly the disease is spreading, and how dangerous it is.

Millions around the world have been impacted by the disease, losing loved ones or getting sick themselves, and millions have also been affected by the reaction to it. The economic shutdown has made millions of people dependent on unemployment insurance for the first time to pay their bills and a system unprepared for such a gigantic influx of new applicants has suffocated under the weight. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses whose doors were shuttered by the shutdown orders across America that had to apply for emergency loans to the Small Business Administration didn’t even get their applications looked at before the money ran out.

The school and daycare centers are closed and parents are stuck between the rock and a hard place of trying to keep money coming in and pay bills while providing their own child care, in essence, trying to juggle working full time from home (or if you work in a hospital or food industry, still having to go in) with parenting full time.

So not only are we worried about getting sick or people we love getting sick, we’re worried that we won’t have enough money to pay the bills and feed the children that we’re now assuming the teaching . Add to that, we’re in the middle of an election year, so the political teams have no co-opted the elements for the crisis and the lines in the sand have been drawn, depending on where your political beliefs fall.

People are desperate. People are scared. A lot of us are not okay. So, what are some ways that we can get back to “okay” when it feels like the world is crashing down on us. Our “fight ot flight” center, the amygdala is constantly being activated lately. So what are some ways that people have stayed cool in a crisis? From just breathing to praying and meditating? That’s what we cover in this episode.

Some of the different methods we discuss in this episode include:

We originally recorded this episode in a live YouTube broadcast during the fifth week of lockdown and you can watch that original conversation in its unedited entirety right here.

The song this week is a meditation track. It’s meant to relax you in just five minutes.  It’s got a beat programmed to slow down your heart rate, it’s in G major, (known as the most relaxing key!), it’s got a Tibetan singing bowl for meditative properties, and there’s even some sounds of rain so that you can experience a little bit of nature. Hopefully, it’ll give you five minutes of peace.

294 – The Hunger of the Damned: Chad Lewis and Wendigo Lore

When Hollywood comes looking for a nasty monster from First Nations folklore, there’s one supernatural creature that seems to dominate the landscape. The legend of the Wendigo has inspired cinematic villains from Pet Sematary to Supernatural, Ravenous to Bone Tomahawk. From the legends of the Algonquin-speaking Great Lakes tribes in the Upper Midwest and Canada, the Wendigo is the evil spirit that transforms starving humans into a voracious cannibalistic monster after they finally succumb to their basest instincts and taste human flesh.

The cover of Chad Lewis’ new book with Kevin Lee Nelson – Wendigo Lore: Monsters, Myths, and Madness

These tribes lived in an area with harsh cold winters where food becomes scarce. Right around February when you haven’t had anything decent to eat for months and your body is starving for any kind of protein outside of your shoe leather, well, your neighbor might start looking pretty good. The human instinct to survive at all costs is hard to resist. The Wendigo is our warning to resist that urge, that this evil irreparably taints the soul once you feast upon another human.

Cannibalism is the ultimate human taboo. The whole reason that humans thrived on this planet is because we work together. We don’t have the natural advantages that other creatures do like fur on a bear to survive the winter cold or teeth like a wolf to dig into our prey. Our socialization is what enabled us to conquer the planet in all of its areas and climates. Winter is the cruelest climate of all because not only is terribly cold, there’s no food. Eating your fellow man is the ultimate betrayal of what makes us human, our tribal capacity to take on the world together.

Who wants some fava beans?

Chad Lewis and Kevin Lee Nelson have been working on this compendium of Wendigo lore and mythology for almost two decades. And in this episode, Chad tells us of the journey he took in writing the book. Some of the things we also talk about in this conversation:

  • Why you’re never even supposed to say the name of the Wendigo
  • The most famous case of the Wendigo in the modern era, Swift Runner, who ate his family in 1878 Alberta
  • The far edges of the world that Chad Lewis and his co- author went to walk on the same ground as the people they talk about in the book
  • The radio station in Eau Claire, Wisconsin we used to perform at all the time and Chad had a show had an owner that thought he was a skin walker!

The Wendigo are more than just the winter spirits of desperate hunger, it is a monster that feeds on greed. The human capacity for gluttony and the desire that you will never have enough. The Wendigo, like George Romero’s zombies, is never satisfied, its craving is never satiated. It’s a eerily thin, gaunt beast who grows larger with every human it devours, but it’s still not enough. Once you break the taboo and taste the flesh, you descend into madness and you will never satisfy “The Hunger of The Damned”.

I can hear its call
in the scream of the cold
I can feel it crawl
an infection in my soul
a little voice deep inside
you’d rather eat than die
find a way to justify
as the hunger takes hold.

Famine like a disease.
What do you do when you’re hungry
More than a beast
and the monster is me

Stung by the winter’s bite
Can I make it one more night
how long can I fight
until I give in to this appetite

You’ll never be the same
once you’ve tasted flesh
don’t say it’s name
the taste that drives you insane
The Hunger of the Damned
don’t say it’s name

you’ll never be satisfied
when the madness burns inside
you’ll never be complete
When all you see is meat.

you’ll never be satisfied
when the madness burns inside
you’ll never be complete
When all you see is meat.