Meet the Monsters of MST3K’s “Every Country Has a Monster”

It did take me a while to finally getting around to giving the Netflix reboot of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” a chance.  I love Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt as much as the next guy and had no doubt the show would be done the ‘right’ way.  Still, I had a good year of hesitation before I finally dove in.

In addition to being a worthy follow-up, the very first episode featured a song about cryptids!  The first movie of their season is a Danish monster movie called “Reptilicus.”  The song goes on the premise that, hey, Japan doesn’t have exclusive rights to big, dumb monster movies.  After all, as the refrain goes, “every country has a monster they’re afraid of!”

So, I decided to go through the lyrics and dive into the creatures mentioned in the song.  To my surprise, there were quite a few I hadn’t heard of!  Feel free to check out the video above and follow along in my abridged version of the lyrics (if they don’t mention a ‘monster,’ I skipped ahead).  All images are clickable so you can see them in their full spooky glory (when possible, I link to the original artists post)!

Jonah: Name a land

Servo: Belize

Jonah: Oh, geez; easy peasy, mes amis. See, in the Yucatan you can meet El Cadejo. In Belize they believe in him.

ElCadejo

  • El Cadejo’s name comes from the Spanish word for “chain” since this massive (roughly cow-sized) goat or dog-like creature with flaming red eyes is said to drag a chain behind it. It’s a creature that travelers are most likely to come across, but it’s not always bad news as there is also a “good Cadejo” that helps or protects lost or vulnerable travelers. However, stumbling across the evil Cadejo can get bad quick as merely talking to the creature will cause you to go insane. Some reports are right out of modern-age, dog-man sightings, where witness have encountered the creature standing upright on its hind legs. Bonus Creepiness: His diet consists of newborn puppies.
Servo: Scotland?

Jonah: Nessies livin’ up in a loch

  • I won’t spend much time on this as we’ve all already heard of the Loch Ness Monster. Weak pull, MST team. We’re looking for the deep cuts!
Servo: How ’bout Poland?
Jonah: A scary scarecrow named Bubak.
Crow: Huh; so…it’s not just Godzilla?
Servo:Well, duh, Crow; there’s a lot that could kill ya’Bubak
  • This is more of a Boogeyman than a mythical creature. The Burbak is an utterly creepy scarecrow that resides along riverbanks. It will mimic the sound of a baby in distress. Once a good Samaritan shows up to help, they become the next victim. What becomes of the victim? Their souls become the material he weaves into cloth. Bonus Creepiness: He rides around in a cart pulled by black cats.
Servo: What turned the musk deer’s guts to spaghetti?

Jonah: Was it in Tibet?

Servo: Yep

Jonah: I bet he met a yeti!

  • Another all-too-common monster here that you’ve already heard of. The Yeti or abominable snowman is an ancient species though as even by the 1700s, there had long been talk of a “Glacier being” that was referred to as God of the Hunt.
Crow: Australia?
Jonah: There, drop bears will impale ya.
Servo: Then they’ll sell ya hella-touristy paraphernaliadropbears
  • Don’t let the visual similarities fool ya. Though they look like cuddly Koala Bears, they are blood thirsty carnivores! Imagine walking through the subtropical paradise that is Australia when a Koala the size of a leopard seems to fall from the sky, landing on top of you with a heavy impact. Before you even realize what just happened, the Drop Bear is already quick at work, eating you alive. Bonus Creepiness: They’re racist (or at least xenophobic)! Covering yourself with Vegemite and talking with a convincing Australian accent may keep you safe.
Jonah: Chupacabra‘s chewin’ up cattle down in Mexico…
  • We’ve all been aware of the “Goat sucker” of Latin lore for what seems like forever, but did you know that this cryptid is modern? The first attack took place in 1995 and the term “Chupacabra” was coined by a comedian who was describing (a very real) incident where eight sheep were found with three puncture wounds, fully drained of blood.
Déélgééd‘s horn is gorein’, battling the Navajo.
  • As is commonly the case, Native American lore is tightly guarded. Déélgééd is only mentioned by the brief description of being a “horned monster” in all written accounts. It’s actually a small part of a much bigger parable. In respect to their culture, this story is apparently only supposed to be told in the winter, so I will hold back (meanwhile, shame on you, MST3K, writers! This episode came out in the spring. If the show doesn’t get a season two, I think we can blame it on an [indigenous persons] curse!).
…Congo’s kongamato is a mongo flying dino. I know I don’t want to die, but when I do, he’ll be the guy.

kongamato

  • This one’s wild, because it isn’t a cryptid – it’s a real life creature that may have overlapped with humans before extension. Some theories speculate that the Kongamoto, which translates to “Breaker of Boats,” was a dinosaur (as referenced in this song), but the other leading possibility is the Saddle-billed stork, which is still alive and thriving. In the ‘30s and again in the ‘50s, scientists observed a foul tempered bird (not sorry about the pun) that attacked boats and people alike. The wingspan was 4 to 7 feet wide. Bonus Creepiness: people have been hospitalized with severe wounds, leading to this actual quote on Wikipedia, “No film has ever been taken, nor have any bodies been examined, leaving all of the stories to rely on large wounds…” Also, when asked to draw pictures of the animal that attacked them, victims draw an image that “resembles a pterosaur.” It’s not often that people are admitted to hospitals with ‘cryptid wounds.’
Servo: Kropermann is a monster from Luxembourg.
Crow: Who’s actually the size of Luxembourg.Kropermann
  • I don’t know where the talk of this creature being the size of a city comes from unless you’re accounting for the ubiquitousness of water because this sea monster can appear anywhere water exists. From the deepest lake to…. Your toilet! Bonus Creepiness: the creature “spears children” who end up getting to close to it. Usually folkloric tales that involve dead children have a lesson tied to it (“eat yer broccoli or the Kropermann’ll get ya!”), but this one doesn’t have that. The only logical conclusion: this is a real beast that just like young meat!
Crow: Egypt’s got mummies like Tutankhamun.
Servo: Leprechaun on the lawn in Boston Common.

Boston-Celtics-logo

  • Probably the furthest stretch on the list, we all know that leprechauns are no monster. Mythical creature, sure, but if they’re cobblers who grant wishes, tend to a pot o’ gold and adorn Larry Bird’s jersey, they’re no monster.
Jonah: And by that I mean Jiu Feng and Peng, giant Chinese birds, and one of them turns into a fish.

nineheadedphoenixchina

  • Jiu Feng, considered the Chinese Phoenix, was a 9-headed bird, honored from 475-221 BC. Indeed, the Peng is a creature that transforms from a massive bird to a massive fish. It is a literary creature, perhaps more in line with Paul Bunyan than thought to be a real life monster.
Anyway… Gnus, …

Catoblepas-gnu

  • The gnu is not a cryptid in and of itself… it’s a wildebeest in southern Africa. However, after a little digging, I was able to find ancient reports of a massive gnu-like creature in Ethiopia called a Catoblepas. It’s horned head was so heavy, it always faced the ground, which was a good thing because its gaze, or even its exhale could permanently turn you to stone.
killer shrews

Killershrews_MST3K

  • I love this in-joke for all the “MSTies” out there as “The Killer Shrews” is a classic episode of MST3K.
…and the loup-garou.
  • We’re talking your basic, run-of-the-mill werewolf here, just in its French translation.  An interesting lesser-known way to become cursed with lycanthrophy is to not observe Lent for seven consecutive years.  Considering that we’re talking about religious rules here, it seems pretty lenient that you can be a bad Catholic 6 years out of 7 and still be okay.
Baba Yaga

BabaYaga You should definitely click on this image.  Lots of detail to see.
  • We head back to the middle ages in Slovenia to find this skeleton-thin witch in folklore.  Her exact purpose isn’t fully known, and like nature itself, she can be good or bad.  Perhaps the most interesting things about her are her surroundings.  Rather then flying on a broomstick, she shuffles around the forest in a giant mortar and pestle she operates like a rowboat.  That is, when she’s not traveling in her house itself, which stands on fully functional chicken legs. Bonus Creepiness: among her entourage are three pairs of disembodied hands that she can control, which she nicknamed her “soul friends.”  Also, when her house is in motion, it emits a horrifying scream.  While it’s stationary, it’s guarded by a fence made of bones, including fire-eyed skulls.
Jorōgumo and the…

Jorōgumo

  • Hats off to the Japanese for perhaps the most creative and creepy entry on this very creepy list.  What happens when a golden orb weaver spider (which is a real thing and I do NOT suggest doing a Google Image search for it just before bed) turns 400 years young?  Well, it becomes a shape shifting woman, of course!  When not an arachnid, it is a siren-like woman who pulls men into the dangerous currents of a waterfall.  Bonus Creepiness: Another story tells of the Jorōgumo handing a baby to a man.  The man looks down to discover that the blanket he’s holding does not contain a baby, but rather, thousands of hatching, man-eating spider eggs.  Oh, and those baby spiders… they breathe fire.  Real life spookiness: The Golden Orb Weaver is big enough to feed on birds and snakes.  Dear God, I did not intend to learn so much about this horrifying real life creature.
impundulu.  Now you guys realize the surprising size of all the worldwide daikaiju

HamerkopImpundulu

  • There is an adorable real life bird called the hamerkop.  However, if you were to ask tribes in South Africa, they would tell you that this is the shape-shifting impundulu.  This bird is highly feared as it is believed to be a familiar to a witch, doing her bidding.  The creature has the power to shoot lighting from its beak and talons (impundulu translates to “lightning bird”) while also being vampiritic, feasting on the blood of humans and other birds alike.
  • Word of the day:  The Japanese word “daikiju” translates to ‘large, strange beast.’
Gypsy: Sasquatch!

Jonah: That’s Canada!

  • We all know who Sasquatch is… and he’s more closely associated with the Pacific Northwest of America than Canada.  However, Bigfoot is sighted all across Canada and the United States.
Servo: Tatzelwurm for the Swiss!

Tatzelwurm

  • This cryptid is found throughout the Alps, but the Swiss would actually refer to it as “Stollenwurm.”  We went through a lot of folklore to finally find ourselves back to a cryptid.  This reptile creature has a long snakelike body, stubby arms and legs and a cat’s face.  Accounts of exactly how many limbs the creature has range from zero to so many it was ‘like a caterpillar.’ Sightings of the Stollenwurm were rare but not unheard of rom the mid 1600s through the mid 1800s. Naturalises of the time theorized that these were real life creatures who had died out.  Bonus Creepiness: Some eye witnesses reported dizziness and headaches after the creature hissed at them, leading people to theorize that it may have poison breath.
Crow: Scandinavia!

Jonah: Kraken!

  • The Kracken is so synonymous with pop culture that it’s easy to forget that this is a real cryptid with first sightings dating back to the 1200s.  It’s possible that this is a real creature that’s misidentified due to its surprising size.  We all know how untrustworthy eye witness testimony is when a manatee can be confused with a mermaid.  The Kracken could be a colossal squid or a giant squid (real animals that approach 50 feet in length, the colossal squid peaking at over 1,600 pounds with eyeballs over a foot and a half in diameter).  There are also known now-extinct squid species that were even larger.
Servo:  Kinga!

Felicia-Day-mst3k

  • It took me way too long to realize that Servo was insulting one of the new “mads” with this comment as Kinga is the name of Felicia Day’s character.   She’s no monster – she’s way too adorable!
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Haunted Oscar Locations (Pt 1)

Did you know that a CRAZY amount of Academy Award Theaters are haunted?  This goes all the way back to the very first award ceremony back in 1924.

Recently, I was fortunate to be back on the “See You on the Other Side” podcast to discuss the “Oscar love curse,” which is the idea that after someone wins an Oscar (usually referring to women) their relationships end.  And in the process we went into a whole bunch of different ghost stories revolving around celebrities (click on the image to listen to the full episode).

One thing I was hoping to get into that we just didn’t have time for on the episode was the surprising amount of Oscar theaters that are haunted.  In order, from newest to oldest, here’s the list:

Hollywood & Highland Center / The Dolby Theater – 2002 – Present
Located at the Hollywood & Highland Center, (pictured right with a portion of DW Griffith’s “Intolerance” set rebuilt to the same, massive scale as the original), the Dolby Theater was called the Kodak Theatre when it first opened just back in 2002.  The location recently hosted their sweet 16 Oscar ceremony.  It’s not known how actively haunted this place currently is, but it’s built on the site of a known haunted location.  Long ago the Hollywood Hotel stood on this location and was one of the many places where people would encounter Rudolph Valentino’s ghost.

I should do a full article about him. I always called him ‘Hollywood’s most traveled ghost,’ because he is apparently seen in over a dozen places around Los Angeles as well as a half dozen or so places in New York.  So, his loss of life has not slowed him down at all.  He is still the quite popular person and, of course, was the silver screen’s first sex symbol, who died at a very young age.  His death left so many people hurting that there are still annual funeral services held on the anniversary of his death, some 90 years later.

There are reported suicides that came about as a result of his death as well as injuries sustained as his body made its way from New York to its current and final resting place at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

At the Hollywood Hotel (pictured left from a 1922 film titled “Hollywood Snapshots”), women would say that his spirit would appear there and give them a kind of a spectral goodnight kiss from the other side.  Naturally, that room was booked out far in advance because everybody wanted them to have one last encounter with Valentino

Is Valentino still hanging out where the Oscars are currently being held?  Who’s to say?  We haven’t heard anything yet.  If you’ve heard anything about hauntings at the Hollywood and Highland Center I’d be very interested to find that out.  It’s possible stuff is going on, but there’s just so much chaos and commotion that it’s hard to notice it.

Pantages Theater, 1950-1960
This is an interesting spot that was on the LA hauntings tour I used to give and still love coming here because most of the time we were telling ghost stories that are dark, sad or negative.  This seems like it’s a place where people love to come back.  So, this is kind of a happy ghost story location.

Howard Hughes’s presence is still felt there frequently, as he owned the building during the decade it hosted the Academy Awards.  It’s associated with the smell of cigarette smoke.  You’d think this guy must have smoked like a chimney but of course we know this guy was very neat and proper.  He despised cigarettes.  So, it’s interesting that we now associate the smell of cigarette smoke with Howard Hughes.  You wonder, is it some former employee who’s smoking in his office and heard Hughes walking down the hall?  He’d be freaked out because he knew he’d be in trouble and that bit of an imprint to this day.

There’s also apparently the ghost of a rabid theater goer.  Now that she’s on the other side, and doesn’t need to buy tickets, she’s enjoying show after show.  She’s enjoying herself so much so that she sings along to the performances.  She even keeps up with the more modern performances that have come around after she passed away.  Apparently she’s able to pick up new tunes.  It’s alleged that she’s even ruined some recordings because her off-key loud singing that’s picked up on recordings.

I could good in depth about Alexander Pantages, who opened this theater.   He had a conspiracy against him that’s pretty well documented by the Kennedy family.  It’s all really fascinating stuff.  Pantages himself doesn’t haunt this location, though he had 80 some locations across North America.  Maybe his presence is still felt at one of those.  This was the last building he built and he did not have a positive experience here in LA.

My favorite ghost story about the Pantages revolves around a wardrobe person who was cleaning up after a performance one night.  She was the last person in the building.  The lights shut off on their own and in the darkness she tripped over something and fell.  She had a moment she started to panic.  Then, out of the darkness, someone grabbed her warmly by the arm helped her to her feet.  They walked with her all the way up through from the main room, through the lobby to the front doors.  She opened the door and waited for the street light from Hollywood Boulevard to stream in so she could illuminate and thank her rescuer, only you see that there.

Again, a protective presence made its presence known.  It’s interesting to note that even though this building went up long ago, the activity didn’t start till more recently.  In the early 90s there was a break-in and a lot of damage was done to the upper balcony area.  It seems like ever since then, the spirits that maybe were sitting there dormant, have taken a more active role in protecting the space.

Grauman’s Chinese Theater, 1944-46
ChineseTheater

ChineseTheater2

In the land of hand prints in concrete and poorly constructed Ironman costumes, Victor Kilian spent one of his final evenings.  He was killed in his home nearby, but this was one of the last places he visited in life.  He was a character actor who made guest appearances classic TV shows of the time and western films in an earlier era.  We don’t know how his life came to an end other than murder by a still unknown assailant.

Late at night at the Chinese courtyard you can have a quiet experience here.  People encounter an elderly man who seems kind of confused or lost.  In the process of trying to help them out, he vanishes.  People believe that this is Victor Kilian.

Two alternating locations, 1930 to 1943
Ambassador Hotel

This is, most famously, where Robert Kennedy was killed by Sirhan Sirhan.  People claim there are hauntings associated with the assassination but it’s hard to get a read for that.  Is it just that that event was such an important moment in the fabric of American history to this day?

Like Linda Vista Hospital, when it went out of business it became a movie set.  I talked with very good friend, DJ MacHale, who wrote and directed the movie “Tower of Terror” for Disney at this location.  He said he talked to the caretakers of the location and as well as his crew members and nobody reported any odd feelings.

However, there were some stories about a woman in white seen beckoning from a fourth floor window as well as activity in the Coconut Grove which was the swingin’ nightclub that was part of the hotel.

However, we won’t know anything more about this location as it was bulldozed in 2005 to make way for a high school.  We shall see we if any stories emerge from these students and teachers at this location.

As a footnote, I gotta say, my favorite dive bar in Los Angeles is right across the street: the HMS Bounty.  It’s an old, dungy, dark, nautical-themed dive in the lobby of the Gaylord hotel, which is a classic old hotel put up by Gaylord Wilshire.  Wilshire, of course, was the big developer who Wilshire Boulevard is named for.  Additionally, it’s in this building’s downstairs salon (now the laundry room) where Marilyn Monroe had her hair first dyed blonde.

This building, from the bar through out the residences, does claim some activity.

Biltmore Hotel
BiltmoreThe Biltmore to this day, I think, is the most beautiful hotel in Los Angeles.  It should be noted that its most famous ghost is a cinema icon:  Slimer.  This located doubled for a snooty New York Hotel where the Ghostbusters encountered that “ugly little spud.’

That said, the biggest hint of why we’re talking about this location is located in the bar, where you can order yourself a drink named after a young actress: A Black Dahlia martini. Elizabeth Short is still one of the most mysterious cold-case files in American history.  Something that I hope paranormal investigation gets to the bottom of in time may be a scrap of evidence that helps us get to the bottom of this murder (If anybody needs a memory jog, she went missing for a number of days and the next time she was ever seen again her body was found cut into pieces in a field just barely off the road on Norton Street in the area that is now the Crenshaw district, just south of the ten in Mid City.

Biltmore2We don’t have any clue really what happened to her, but the last time Elizabeth Short was seem was in the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel frantically making phone calls.  Eventually she went outside, got into a car, and was never seen alive again.  Some people have claimed to see her spirit in the area of the phone banks to this day.  Now wouldn’t it be interesting if somebody doing a paranormal investigation picked up a clue during an EVP session here?

Check out the video below for a video tour I did with Max Timm and Connor Bright as we visited locations important to the Black Dahlia story including the Biltmore and the location where her body was discovered.

Stay Tuned for PART 2 coming in just a little bit.  Spoiler warning, Part 2 consists ENTIRELY of the haunted history of the Roosevelt Hotel!  I think it’s the most actively haunted public building in LA and I am thrilled that I’ll be posting some brand new stories about that haunted site this month!  Stay up to date by signing up for our free newsletter!


Paranormal Year in Review

Another year is coming to a close and with it, time to reflect on the year that was.  I have been unbelievably fortunate to be able to visit some astounding places.  I thought it IGTop9Hauntedwould be impossible to surpass my 2016 “Instagram Top 9” that included getting a rare look at the séance room at the Stickney House, the Yuma Territorial Prison, finally visiting the Roosevelt Hotel pool in Hollywood and The Alamo while getting one final look at the Willowbrook Ballroom just weeks before it burned to the ground. I even had a little cryptid fun, looking for The Beast of Bray Road in Elkhorn, WI.

Somehow 2017 was even bigger!  So, here is the Top 10 Haunted Locations we’ve visited this year (location titles with links take you to articles we’ve previously posted on the topic):

10) Old Whitley Jail, Columbia City, IN

OldWhitleyJailThe Old Whitley Jail is a sight to behold. Built in 1875, the red brick portion was the sheriff’s house and courthouse, while the white portion was the prison. Currently, the site is used as a Halloween attraction.We hope this historic and haunted building is being preserved well, but that seems unlikely. It is home to at least three ghosts: Sheriff Frank Allwein, an unknown female and Charles Butler, a murdered who shot his wife in the back in 1883 before (temporarily) escaping the jail.

OldWhitleyJail2

9) Jane Hotel / New York City

JaneHotelHaunted2The Jane is still haunted by victims and survivors of the Titanic! Passengers and crew alike who were pulled from the icy waters were sequestered here after the famous sinking and had to stay here throughout the subsequent court proceedings. Apparently the 4th floor is the most active area where phantom crying is heard and full apparitions are seen.  The hauntings at the building serve as a great reminder that it’s often the actions and the emotions of the living that lead to residual hauntings as it’s the grieving survivors that current day visitors witness. (additional photo on Instagram link)

8) El Rancho / Gallup, NM

ElRanchoThe El Rancho Hotel is considered one of the most haunted locations along Route 66.  Gallup itself was a moviemaking hot spot during the glory days of westerns and the El Rancho was the top destination for crews and stars alike.  It’s in the upper lobby where people have heard phantom conversations, singular voices, footsteps and laughter. The bridal suite may claim the most activity, but neighboring rooms also report objects moving on their own, doors opening by unseen hands and the unwelcome wake up call of the curtains flying open on their own at the crack of dawn.  A glance around different travel or review sites also recounts tales of unexplainable phenomena in the John Wayne room and the Susan Hayward room.

ElRancho2

7) Queen Mary / Long Beach, CA

This was not my first trip to the Queen Mary, but it’s so incredibly haunted that it still earns a place on the list.  That, and because there was an invisible visitor in the room with us who played with the sliding chain lock in our room.  Easily something that perked me up from the edge of sleep!  Also commissioned by the White Star Line, The Queen Mary is actually 136 feet longer than the Titanic and weighed nearly twice as much.  And it seems that nearly every floor, deck and room is in play when it comes to having a paranormal experience.

6) Chelsea Hotel / New York City

ChelseaHotelHauntedIn a strange coincidence, less than a day after I shot an interview with John Lydon (“Johnny Rotten” of Sex Pistols fame), I found myself at the Hotel Chelsea.  It’s a spot where so much art was created, but it will forever be thought of as the place where his band mates, killed each other.  Yes, this is the place where Sid Killed Nancy. Talking with the man at the front desk about the paranormal, his response was, “oh yeah, we’ve got it all… ghost stories, murders, suicides, murder-suicides….” An ChelseaHotelHaunted2elderly tenant then walked in from the street, saw my camera gear and asked, “have you come to talk to the ghosts?” Of course, I asked him a follow-up question, which lead to him saying, “Not a lot of people here will talk about the stories, but if you’re sensitive, you’ll hear a lot.” It was a foreboding warning straight out of a movie.

5) Gore Orphanage & “Cry Baby Bridge” / Amherst, OH

GoreOrphanageRuins

Some of the ruins of the former home site.

The phenomenon known as a cry baby bridge (hearing phantom children crying from a bridge) is not uncommon and dates back to the La Llorona folk legend. However, this one in Ohio, over the Vermillion River, seems to be particularly active according to a park ranger who patrols the area. The road leads to “Gore Orphanage,” the ruins of which make for one of Ohio’s most haunted forests. Video and pictures from our paranormal investigation will certainly be the focus of a future newsletter. The ranger told us about a recent report where a bank of fog was GoreOrphanagehovering over the bridge.  As the driver went through it, a handprint appeared on the windshield and then smeared up the windshield and carried on along the entire side of the car.  The forest itself claims a number of different childlike paranormal phenomena despite not actually being the site of an orphanage.

4) Farnsworth House Inn / Gettysburg, PA

FarnsworthInn2

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Gettysburg and while I didn’t have a mind-blowing paranormal experience like the last time I was here, I did get to have the fun

FarnsworthInnexperience of taking part in the monthly “See You on the Other Side” podcast hangout from this historic location.  The top floor served as a perfect sniper’s perch.  Beneath the sniper’s window, the brick wall is scarred with 135 bullet strikes.  Upwards of a dozen different apparitions are seen here, including an 8-year-old boy and a nurse (the building served as a makeshift hospital) who tucks people into bed.

 

3) Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café / Pacific Palisades, CA

It was fantastic news when we found out the endangered building that housed Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk cafe was getting a full, historically accurate renovation! It might still be difficult to do a paranormal investigation here in the future, but at least the building won’t be demolished as previously rumored. Best case scenario: some future EVPs will shed light on the last mysterious night of the troubled actress’s life. Murder or accident?  The jury is still out on the 1935 death of the beautiful blonde comedic actress.  Amazingly, we got a room-to-room walk-through of the entire property, learning what each room was in the past and what the future plans involve.  In addition to investigating this site, the nearby garage where her body was discovered should be investigated regularly.

2) Stull Cemetery / Stull, KS

StullCemetery2Visiting this cemetery has been a goal of mine since I started getting into the paranormal in 1999.  The location is a maze of urban legends involving visits by Satan, witchcraft and stairways to the underworld.  The very rural site is difficult to research and the

StullCemeteryChurch

Ruins of the demolished church on the land.

paranormal claims are just about impossible to verify or test as the cemetery is guarded at night.  We were able to verify a recent (true) phenomena – the grounds apparently spontaneously combust!  While we were there on a rainy day, there were no flames, but we did find random scorch marks throughout the cemetery grounds.  (a short video will follow on this one too)

StullCemetery3

1) Silver Bridge & the TNT area / Point Pleasant, WV

MothmanStatueIt was a paranormal dream come true to visit the site of the famous 1966-67 Mothman sightings along the Ohio River.  Of course, these sightings weren’t isolated.  They were accompanied by scores of UFO sightings and something of an invasion by Men in Black who interviewed townspeople and seemed constantly out of place, even being fascinated by ordinary objects like ballpoint pens.  The varied phenomena stopped when the Silver Bridge, which spansthe river, collapsed, killing 46 holiday commuters.  Upon MothmanBridgereturning home, Wendy Lynn Staats of the “See You on the Other Side” podcast and the band Sunspot and I filmed a video discussing the differences between the film and the true story – truth was creepier than fiction in this case!

Honorable Mentions (all links go to Instagram):

The Hidden Brand Family Cemetery in Glendale, CA, locating urban legendy-ruins near St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Wadsworth, IL, Presidential Haunted Honeymoon spot, the Mission Inn, Riverside, CA () observing sacred sites and petrographs outside of Tucson, AZ, Molly’s Souper in Upland, CA, Château Marmont, Hollywood & Forgotten Montrose Cemetery, Chicago.


Haunted Road Trip Pt 2: Cadillac Ranch to Stull Cemetery

Let’s pick up where we left off on our weird and spooky Tucson to Madison road trip. In part one we covered ghost and UFO-related locations across Arizona and New Mexico, visiting haunted hotels and eating at haunted restaurants. I’m a sucker for classic Hollywood, so I’ll take a moment to again, point out how cool the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, NM is. If you haven’t had a change to read that article, check out part 1.

Our departure from lunch in Santa Fe’s haunted High Noon Restaurant, sent us east towards the Texas panhandle. In true form, everything really is bigger in Texas… even the Holiday Inn, which boasted rooms as big as convention halls. Exaggeration, yes, but it was some serious bang for the buck.

CaddyRanch

Cadillac Ranch

The next morning, waking up in Amarillo, there was one way to start the day… by hanging out in the middle of a farm field. Cadillac Ranch has been standing for over 40 years just south of Route 66. The 10 cars, arranged chronologically from a ’49 model to a ’64 show the progression of the iconic Caddy tail fin. The original location was a wheat field 2 miles closer to the city, but was moved in 1997 to keep it further from the growing metropolis.

Perhaps most amazingly, the location is still completely free and unmonitored. Curiosity seekers are welcome to visit and explore the oddity as they wish. The original plan wasn’t to provide a canvas for people across the country to leave their mark, but that’s what it’s become. Half used spray cans litter the area, allowing anyone to grab the contraband-turned-art supply and add their own little flair to Cadillac Ranch. After 40 years, I think there’s more paint than metal here. For a great gallery of photographs of the ranch over the years, including the unthinkable – graffiti-free pictures of the cars, visit this site: The Story of Cadillac Ranch.

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We didn’t have to go far to visit our first haunted location of the day as Amarillo also houses “The Nat,” a haunted castle from 1922. Well, a castle-style building anyway. It was built to house an indoor swimming pool (“Nat” being short for natatorium), but within four years of opening, the venue was completely repurposed. A dance floor was built over top of the pool and a stage was added. The ghosts that still reside seem to come from this incarnation of the building.

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Two-page ad announcing the opening of The Nat in July 1922.

The next 70 years witnessed an evolution of music, hosting big band groups, classic rock groups including Buddy Holly and continuing to book acts all the way to the much more contemporary Dixie Chicks.

Today, however, the building is wall-to-wall antique mall. The upstairs loft, previously a gambling hall (unconfirmed), is the site of frequent cold spots and where a women in white is seen. This woman has a red mark on her front. Amazingly, this has not lead to legends of a woman being stabbed to death here, but rather the victim of a ruthless wine stain.

People have seen a couple still dancing the night away on the dance floor. The room is also the site of easily the most rockin’ residual haunting I’ve ever heard of: a phantom drum solo! The opportunity was too rich, so I had our award-winning drummer in residence, Wendy Lynn Staats of the paranormal rock band Sunspot, take the stage and hang out where the drum kit would be set up. Unfortunately, our phantom performers were not enticed to show off in front of a fellow drummer.

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Wendy in her natural environment – on a haunted stage.

Talking with the clerk, he conveyed a story to us about seeing a woman and young girl walking through one of the aisles around closing time. When he approached to let them know they were closing soon, the two vanished.

This sounds like an active site that possibly got much more active with the addition of thousands of antiques. It’s always possible that cherished objects still have attachments associated with their previous owners. This would be an amazing, but impractical location for a ghost hunt. I only hope the Nat has a good security system with sound; essentially a nightly paranormal stakeout.

WizardOfOzLiberal2Our journey took us to Kansas, which meant one thing: odd attempts to capitalize on the “Wizard of Oz.” Liberal, KS contains a replica of Dorothy’s house and in my opinion that’s a liberal use of the word “replica.” In fairness, we didn’t give the place a fair shot as we arrived at closing time and could only explore the exterior. The kitsch and oddity factor is exactly what you’re looking for in a roadside attraction.

CoronadoLiberalJust across the street, however, was some serious history. It was the estimated location where Francisco Vasquez de Coronado at least temporarily set up shop during an expedition in 1541. He spent more than a month exploring central Kansas looking for a fabled kingdom of gold. Clearly Coronado returned without riches, but also without his guide, who he killed in anger.

Stories of frustration turned to those of inspiration when we drove through the nearby town of Greensburg, KS. The town captured our attention as it was evident from tree damage that a tornado was in its recent past. In 2007 95% of the down was decimated by an F5 tornado (the most extreme on the Fujita-Pearson scale). The tornado itself was wider than the entire city. However, rather than rebuild as quickly and cheaply as possible, the town became the first in the nation to build all of it’s structures at platinum levels according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Greensbug is now known as the “greenest town in America.”

We rolled into Pratt, KS in time for an amazing Midwestern meal at Club D’Est, but unfortunately too late to buy a drink (travel tip: BYOB, box wine travels well).

Starting our final day in central Kansas, we were in great position to visit one of the most famously haunted sites in all of America… but not before one more roadside oddity.

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The name “Truckhenge” might make you think you’ll be seeing a replica of Stonehenge created with trucks. However, that would be attributing way too much organizational credit to this site. I hope that doesn’t sound too snarky and judgmental, because this is a “must see” location. As much as this place is an explosion of folkart, it’s also a constant protest against the bureaucracy who wanted owner Ron Leesman to clean up his property, citing that a flood could wash his collection of antique, immobile trucks down the nearby river. Rather than clear them out, he embedded them, turning them into political billboards, none more iconic than the nose-up pick-up truck declaring “Rise up!”

TruckHenge2TruckHenge3However, the trucks are just a small percentage of the overall experience. Ron himself greeted us when we showed up unannounced. Beer in hand at 11am, he showed us his collection of carvings: dozens of faces he carved into logs. It was clear he had a joke for each and every piece. Peacocks roamed the grounds as we were invited to take a drive. You literally drive through this guy’s backyard along a track, viewing the art he’s created with found items and empty beer bottles and cans. He’s also become something of an amateur archeologist too, having located ice age-era fossils of camels and mammoths in the neighboring quarry. There is no admission fee, nor is there even a donation box.

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Within 20 minutes we transport ourselves from an anti-establishment art exhibit to the mouth of Hell itself (well, according to legend anyway). Where do you start when you discuss Stull Cemetery? The rural, out of the way location is one legend heaped upon the next. The church and cemetery date to the mid 1850s, but we don’t know when the first reports of the supernatural started surrounding this area. A 1974 article in the University of Kansas newspaper serves as some of the first hard evidence when it comes to a folklore timeline and the advent of the internet really helped spread stories.

Legend has it that the location is visited twice a year by none other than Satan himself, on the spring equinox and on Halloween night. When the roof caved in on the aged stone church, witnesses there on rainy days observed that no rain would land within the now unprotected church. As of 2002 the church was fully bulldozed, making it impossible to confirm or deny these claims.

StullCemeteryChurchThere’s the legend of a stairway, always described vaguely as as being behind and to the right of the church. This is a magical portal of some sort. If you toss an item into the the stairwell, you’ll never hear it hit bottom. The few people that have attempted going down the stairs have never returned. If “Eleven” goes missing during season three of “Stranger Things,” this would be a good place to start looking as it’s believed this is the literal doorway to the other side.

Wendy and I spent at least an hour investigating this site with no luck in locating such a staircase or anything in the ground that might indicate a filled-in staircase or foundations. While that sounds like a sure “case closed,” it actually feeds into the well-constructed legend that the staircase only reveals itself on rare occasions. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to this story as I haven’t found legends to decipher if it relates to a time of day, anniversary, etc. or if it’s the witness themselves who are the key to the stairs revealing themselves. Of course, the likelihood that it’s all manufactured storytelling, is also possible.

However, I’ve come to the conclusion that while stories may get blown up and exaggerated over time, they come from some element of truth. So, where is that truth?

Did early settlers practice séances or other occult practices here? Was a tree on this land used to hang witches? Yes, these are even more of the claims related to this site.

New friends and fellow road tripping paranormal nerds, Greg & Dana Newkirk of Planet Weird made a visit to the site in 2016 and were shocked to see the Stull Cemetery grounds randomly on fire with no obvious cause. It was almost as if Satan had emerged up that mythic staircase and just forgot to wipe his feet before exploring our earthly realm.  Feel free to check out their video below, but note that they misidentify the location of the church.

When Wendy and I visited Stull in 2017 is was a rainy day, so there were no flames or smoke. However, fresh scorch marks were apparent and scattered around the grounds. There’s no obvious culprit for this.  Note the black marks on the ground in the image below.  We will have our own video about this site that shows the burn marks in the future.

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Interestingly, one of the few real life documented tragedies to take place in the small town (Stull’s peak population only hit 50 and has since been absorbed by the town of Lecompton) involves a young boy wandering into a field was was on fire and burning to death. When trying to explain a documented paranormal phenomena, one has to cast a pretty wide net based on historical facts. I, myself, have a lot of work to do when it comes to research here. For one, is that boy buried at Stull Cemetery? If so, the connection between his death and the random fires is somewhat compelling. Also, skeptics claim the 1974 article was a hoax that has since gotten out of hand. If that’s the case, locating paranormal allegations in the ‘60s or earlier will be able to debunk the skeptic claims. It may seem funny to debunk the debunkers, but the lack of detail in those claims is exactly what a skeptic would point to, to discredit a paranormal claim. Either way you cut it, facts have to be backed up by documentation.

We love the more recent story too that talks about a local news crew that got permission to stay overnight at Stull Cemetery. Their goal: To debunk the Satan visitation story (or to grab the interview of a lifetime if he shows up). Despite having consent from the property owners and doing work that would ultimately demystify the cemetery, police kicked them out at 11:30. “What are the police covering up?” has been the understandable reaction of the ghost-believing public. Perhaps one day we will start to put some pieces together, whether it’s debunking the claims or understanding the paranormal truths of this area.

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Thank you for joining us on our paranormal road trip! We hope the insight from this post and the previous one give you some fun, spooky & weird options when visiting Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Kansas. One last tip – if you find yourself in Kansas City, don’t pass up the BBQ!


The Haunted Great Escape in Schiller Park, IL

I recently took part in what must be my 5th or 6th Chicago Ghost Conference, hosted by the fantastic Ursula Bielski.  Our Saturday night party (which was a ridiculous bash that featured not only some awesome costumes, but also an enthusiastic conga line) was held in the Great Escape, an historic restaurant that I featured in a profile video and intervew way back in 2010.  I’m not sure how many conference-goers were even aware that the party was at a haunted venue.  Here is that video:


Haunted Road Trip: Tucson to Madison (Part 1)

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One of my personal favorite videos I’ve ever put out involved how to take a haunted road trip from LA to Vegas.  This year, I set my sights a little bigger and covered a lot more distance, this time taking a trip from Tucson, AZ to Madison, WI, with Wendy Lynn Staats, drummer and violin player for the rock band, Sunspot.  They’re a group that features a lot of songs with paranormal or geek culture themes.  If interested, check out some drone footage I shot of the band here:

Tucson, AZ itself has some great haunted sites, but perhaps, as a Chicagoan, none stand out more than the place that lead to the (temporary) downfall of John Dillinger’s crew.  The Congress Hotel had to serve as a temporary landing spot for the gang of outlaws as the house they rented was not yet ready for them.

Hotel Congress 1934One early morning, fire broke out and the gang, like everyone else, was forced to stand on the street to watch fire envelop the hotel.  Knowing they had some precious cargo inside, a firefighter was convinced to go retrieve their luggage.  In appreciation, the firefighter was given a significant tip.  The following day, the firefighter in question happened to see a photo in True Detective Magazine of the generous tippers.  Within two days the entire crew was arrested, setting the stage for one of the most famous and clever prison breaks in history, that being the escape in the warden’s car in Crowne Point, IN that is described in detail in “Voices from the Chicago Grave.”  (further reading on John Dillinger’s time in Tucson here)

The Hotel Congress boasts many old time amenities and a whole slew of ghosts who continue to make their presence known.  There’s a maid in one of the halls, a cowboy in the basement, a war vet barfly who continues to tell stories to anyone within earshot and the second floor offers a variety of haunted rooms including the positive (room 220, long time resident still hanging around) and the very negative (suicide deaths leading to hauntings in rooms 214 & 242).

No time to stop for the night this time around, so we headed due north toward the tiny, remote town of Snowflake, Arizona.  Snowflake is famous for one thing and one thing only – this is the site of the most famous UFO abduction case in history.  It was here at the in 1975 that Travis Walton and six fellow loggers encountered a UFO.  Walton ventured from their truck and ended up getting abducted.  He was gone for five days.  The story may be familiar as it’s the basis for the feature film “Fire in the Sky” (trailer below).

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, where Walton was working, is enormous.  We drove in total darkness for a disorientingly long amount of time.  I had designs on finding the exact location where the UFO encounter happened to try to take some readings, as I’ve heard that there’s still a radioactive signature here.  However, I did not plan for the forest being nearly 3 million acres.  The next best option, which is really a goldmine when getting to the bottom of local lore, was finding a local bar to talk to the regulars.  We passed one or two small dives that appeared to be closed for the night before finally locating a restaurant/bar that was open.

Sadly, this venue didn’t quite have the local flavor I was hoping for as it appeared to cater to time share ‘owners.’  Still, the place had to be staffed by locals who knew all about the tales, right?  I mean, after the most famous UFO story since Roswell, have there been other sightings?  Do other UFOlogists swing through often to see the place for themselves?  What about Bigfoot sightings?  There tends to be a correlation between places with a lot of sasquatch sightings and UFO activity.  With so much woodlands, I can imagine all sorts of cryptid sightings!

“So, do you know about the UFO history of this area?” I asked our bartender.

“You mean, like Area 51?” She responded.

“Um, no,” the smile leaving my face.  “Just down the road from here was the most famous UFO abduction case in the world.  There was a big Hollywood film made about it.”

“Oh,” she said before turning around to dry glasses.

ElRancho“Oh?”  Just “oh?”  I will never understand how there wasn’t a string of follow-up questions to my statement.  I guess I’m a researcher and others are not.   ….but still!  A Hollywood movie was made based on events in your town and you have zero interest?  A UFO plucked a dude off of your sleepy street and you’re not interested?

Clearly, we were barking up the wrong tree and we had a lot of miles left to drive.  Our camp for the night was just over the border in the beautiful town of Gallup, New Mexico.

Gallup’s picturesque landscapes made the town a natural fit for countless movies over the years, particularly westerns.  However, it’s here that one of my favorite movies of all time, Kirk Douglas’s “Ace in the Hole” was filmed.

All of those crew members and movie stars had to sleep somewhere while in town and where better than a hotel opened by Roy Griffith, the brother of the legendary director DW (“Birth of a Nation,” “Intolerance”)?  Today, the El Rancho Hotel is considered one of the most haunted locations along Route 66.

ElRancho3The two-floor lobby with the wrap-around balcony proudly displays vintage, signed black and white photos of the stars of yester-year who once stayed there.  Some rooms even display names on them, presumably honoring past residents.  It’s in this upper lobby where people have heard phantom conversations, singular voices, footsteps and laughter.

Among individual rooms, the bridal suite claims the most activity, but neighboring rooms also report objects moving on their own, doors opening by unseen hands and the unwelcome wake up call of the curtains flying open on their own at the crack of dawn.  Apparently a long gone crew member doesn’t want to miss their call time.

A glance around different travel or review sites also recounts tales of unexplainable phenomena in the John Wayne room and the Susan Hayward room.

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By lunchtime we had made it to another location that is intimately associated with a Hollywood production…..and meth.  Yep, Albuquerque!  Perhaps no law enforcement agency takes stopping the spread of meth more seriously than the town where the movie “Breaking Bad” is set.  For the 18+ crowd, ya gotta check out the Candy Lady, a candy store that sells X-rated sweets.  No haunting here, but this is one of the ‘weird’ trip highlights.

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HighNoon2We, however, had our sights set on margaritas and the High Noon Restaurant and Saloon and they delivered!  The building itself has to be one of the oldest still existing structures in the United States as it was first built in the 1750s.  The building has long reported the presence of a woman in white in the Santos room (pictured to the right, note the saint statues in the alcoves), but the current owners have been feeling more and more unsettled.  Something isn’t right here.  That’s what led them to reach out for help in the form of Travel Channel’s “The Dead Files.” (read more on that here). Clever marketing ploy or legit paranormal drama, we had a lunch that more than hit the spot.

Bellies full of great food, we took a little walk before jumping back on the road.  In the process, we got a look at the Covered Wagon, a store that contains a ridiculous amount of Chile Ristras (bunches of hanging chili peppers, picture below) and the legend of a ghost named Scarlett, a prostitute who was murdered on the site when the building was a brothel.  She was allegedly stabbed by a fellow ‘working girl’ and died of blood loss before help could arrive.  Due to the clandestine nature of the building, there are no official records to confirm or deny that this crime took place.  Whatever the origin, the building and the immediate surrounding area seems to be visited by a female presence, who is not always clothed.  You heard me.

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In the same square is the La Placita Dining Rooms (picture below).  The business itself has been in operation since 1935 while the building itself went up sometime prior to 1880 (some sites claim 1706 as the building date).  We talked with one member of the wait staff who confirmed that he had coworkers with paranormal stories but he himself had yet to experience anything of note.

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According to various web sites, there are four known ghosts here, but only two or three are ever identified.  One is the ghost of a little girl who appears as a reflection in the women’s room mirrors while the other is a visage of a woman in full bridal gown seen descending the stairs.  The most unique and perhaps common visual anomaly is a fog or a mist that appears hovering over tables and lingers for a time before again vanishing.  Is this another specter attempting to form?  Perhaps time will tell.

Tune in next month for the next installment of the weird and haunted road trip, which will include infamous and ya-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it sites in Texas and Kansas!

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Midsummer Scream w/ DJ MacHale, Creator of “Are You Afraid of The Dark”

I run down what I’ve got coming up, notably moderating a panel at Midsummer Scream (midsummerscream.org) about the CLASSIC nickelodeon horror anthology show “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” with friend and show creator DJ MacHale. Also, I’ll be taking in the largest music festival in the world, Summerfest, with the “paranormal rock” band Sunspot (sunspotuniverse.com). Recently, I’ve been to a ton of haunted sites coast-to-coast including The Nat in Amarillo, TX and Stull Cemetery in Kansas. Subscribe to this YouTube channel and my newsletter at WhatsYourGhostStory.com to stay in the “know!”