Rank #1: HBM060: The Predators of McNeil Island [EXPLICIT]
Please Note: This episode is largely about sexual violence towards children. Most of the descriptions throughout the audio are clinical, but one description from our court recordings is particularly graphic and disturbing. Keep this in mind, especially if you are listening within earshot of children.
McNeil Island sits in Washington State's Puget Sound, just three miles northwest of Steilacoom. For much of its existence, the island served as a fishing outpost for indigenous coastal people. But for the last 150-odd years, McNeil Island has been a place to house society's undesirables. Soon after white settlers claimed it in the 1850s, they built a prison there--Charles Manson served a stint there, long before his infamous Hollywood killing spree. At that point, McNeil Island was a sustainable community that consisted of the prison staff and their family members. There were houses, an elementary school and a graveyard.
But the world changed, and the island prison became too expensive to operate. In 2011 the prison closed, the inmates were relocated, and the staff moved to the mainland.
McNeil Island's abandoned prison visible from the city of Steilacoom, Washington. The Special Commitment Center is hidden behind the crest of the hill.
But by then, McNeil Island had sprouted a different kind of facility, also nested inside razor wire. It wasn't a prison, but its residents weren't exactly allowed to leave.
It was a late summer morning in 1989 when Washington Governor Booth Gardner came to work at the state capital to find thousands of empty tennis shoes dumped at the capital steps. The shoes were left there by demonstrators calling for harsher punishments for sex offenders. The group did it in response to several gruesome crimes that had happened earlier that year; crimes which the activists argued were enabled by lax sentencing laws and early releases for violent prisoners. The group called themselves the Tennis Shoe Brigade, and the shoes they brought were meant to represent the forgotten victims of rape. Their action prompted Governor Gardner to assemble the Task Force on Community Protection.
That fall, as the Governor Gardner's task force deliberated, serial child rapist Westley Allen Dodd raped and murdered three young boys in Vancouver, Washington. Despite Dodd's long criminal history of child molestation, he never served a full prison sentence for his crimes. Even Dodd himself felt the legal system had failed him and his victims, telling one reporter, "If you add up all the prison time I was given but never made to serve, I'd be in prison until 2026... and those boys would still be alive." Dodd wrote a pamphlet advising children on how to avoid violent sex offenders like him.
One of several patrol boats that puttered around Steilacoom Ferry Dock.
In the wake of Dodd's crimes, the task force penned the Community Protection Act of 1990. This act required law enforcement to keep a sex offender registry, and allowed for the civil commitment of Sexually Violent Predators, or SVPs. This meant that this special class of sex offenders could be legally and indefinitely detained after they'd served their criminal sentences if the court deemed them likely (aka. more than 50% likely) to re-offend, if released into the public. But, per the law, civil commitment would be rehabilitative, not punitive, and therefore wouldn't violate double jeopardy. The act passed into law RCW 71.09 also known as the Sexually Violent Predator law.
In order for a sex offender to be deemed an SVP in Washington, they must meet three criteria (per RCW 71.09)
- They must have been convicted or charged of a sexually violent crime.
- They must be suffer from a "personality disorder" or a "mental abnormality", and
- That condition must make them likely to commit predatory acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility.
In Washington State, that secure facility is the Special Commitment Center (SCC) on McNeil Island. It's not a prison, but a treatment facility administrated by Washington State's Department of Social and Health Services. DSHS told us that (as of publish date) 242 people are confined on the island.
An empty boat meant for transporting vehicles at the Steilacoom Ferry Dock.
There have been two supreme court challenges to Washington's SVP law (other states have challenged too). One plaintiff claimed inadequate treatment, the other claimed they were serving a second prison term. Both times, the court ruled in favor of Washington's law.
This episode is about a man named Chris. To protect him, his family and his victims, we're only referring to him by first name.
According to court documents, Chris was nine years old when he started molesting his younger siblings in the mid 1980s. Eventually he started molesting other children in the neighborhood, and even had sexual contact with one of the family dogs. The documents say that In 1995, at age 16, Chris was caught with a 12 year old neighbor boy who he'd pinned down; both boys were naked from the waist down and Chris had either penetrated the boy with his penis or had inserted it between the boys legs (records vary). By the time he was convicted, further questioning established that Chris had forced sexual contact on other children hundreds of times, including his younger siblings. He was sent to juvenile detention for two years, where he stayed until he was 18. He was released on parole.
Throughout his life, Chris has been medicated with psychotropics for a number of diagnoses: ADD/ADHD, Bipolar, Tourette Syndrome, Bipolar 2, Tardive Dyskinesia, Anti-Social Personality Disorder. His medications included Lithium, Luvox, Clonidine, Anafranil, Risperdal, Paxil, Serzone, Effexor, and Tegretol.
Within a few months of his release, Chris checked himself into an inpatient mental health facility in Seattle for a psych evaluation. Court documents say that Chris kissed up to three other residents during his stay, and later asked staff repeatedly for contact information for one of the women. He started telling staff of his violent sexual fantasies about rape. The documents also say he disclosed fantasies about having sex with human organs and body parts, as well as fantasies about having sex with large sea and land mammals.
Given his history of forced sexual contact and the graphic and deviant nature of his fantasies, the hospital staff filed a petition to have Chris classified as an SVP. He was given a number of tests to measure the severity of his sexual deviance. One of these tests was a penile plethysmegraph (PPG) in which they wrapped a pressure-sensitive, plastic band around Chris's penis and measured his arousal to sexual visual and audio stimuli. He was also analyzed through an actuarial tool called the Static 99R which attempts to statistically predict a sex offender's chance of recidivism. Near the time of his commitment, one of the doctors analyzing Chris wrote this:
"Christopher clearly presents an extremely high risk of sexual assault of younger or vulnerable persons of either sex…Under no circumstances should he return to live with his family now or in the foreseeable future."
As a result, the SVP unit of the King County prosecutors' office drew up a stipulation for Chris. This stipulation would designate Chris as an SVP and send him to live indefinitely at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. However, Chris would be allowed to challenge his civil commitment in front of a jury of his peers. And when he did so, the burden of proof would be on the state to prove that Chris continued to meet SVP criteria.
Trains regularly pass by the Steilacoom Ferry Dock. This one carries military equipment. Presumably, this shipment is bound for nearby Fort Lewis.
Soon after he got to the island, Chris said he changed. Nearly immediately, he requested to take a medication holiday. According to documents written by his lawyers, soon after he stopped taking the medications, the most egregious fantasies dissipated. He describes being on the medications as being in a mental fog, as if he were drunk. He does not claim that his offenses were a result of being overly medicated, but he does believe his inhibition was lowered. By the second year of his commitment, Chris stopped attending group therapy with the other SCC residents. He says that by then he no longer experienced deviant fantasies, and that recounting his offenses week after week was not conducive to his recovery. We found no evidence that he's sexually assaulted anyone since arriving on the island.
In late 2015, per the stipulation he signed when he was 18, Chris received a trial for his unconditional release. One of his attorneys, Andrew Morrison, contacted us to see if we were interested in attending the trial. We said "yes."
A month-long juried trial ensued. The verdict came back unanimously against the State of Washington. They had failed to prove that Chris continued to meet the definition of an SVP. On March 17th, 2016, Chris was released from the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. According to Andrew Morrison, Chris registered as a Level 2 sex offender shortly after his release, as was required of him.
The topic of recidivism for sex offenders is hotly contested, since sex crimes are often unreported and good data for long-term recidivism is sparse. However, some of the best numbers we have come from a report put together by the Office of Justice Programs. They reported that, compared to other criminals, sex offenders are re-arrested at significantly lower rates. They also report that after three years after a sex offender's release, five percent were re-arrested a sexual crime. After 15 years, 24% were re-arrested for a sex crime.
It's been almost 26 years since the Community Protection Act of 1990 paved the road to civil commitment laws in 20 states and the District of Columbia. In 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which instated a federal system of civil commitment.
Detail of the abandoned prison on McNeil Island.
In 2015, an advocacy group called Disability Rights Washington drafted a lawsuit against the SCC on McNeil Island. They claimed that the SCC failed to provide adequate treatment for mentally disabled residents, making commitment there more punitive than rehabilitative. This claim is backed by a 2013 Washington State Institute for Public Policy Report that cites special needs residents who were receiving just 2 hours of treatment per week in 2011.
That same WSIPP report cites that the cost of Special Commitment Center is roughly $150,000 per resident per year (and significantly more for those in transitional programs). The center received $47,609,000 in the 2013 state budget. Civil commitment at the SCC is roughly five times more expensive than incarceration in a Washington State prison.
Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton produced this piece. George Lavender fact-checked the audio for this story. Nick White did content editing.
People who appear on tape (in order of first appearance):
Bethany Denton - Host
Jeff Emtman - Host
Andrew Morrison - One of Chris's Defense Attorneys
Chris - Former SVP
Jennifer Ritchie - King County Prosecutor's Head of the Sexually Violent Predator Unit
Alison Bogar - King County Prosecutor
Bill Bowman - Judge
Dr. Harry Goldberg - Expert for Prosecutors
Dr. Joseph Plaud - Expert for Defenders
Dr. Holly Coryell - SCC's Head of Clinical Treatment
Others who provided background information, but were not heard in audio:
Christine Sanders - Chris's other defense attorney
Kristen Richardson - King County Prosecutor
Chris Wright - Communications for Washington's Department of Social and Health Services
For this story, we were originally granted permission to visit the island to interview Dr. Coryell and Chris. However, that permission was revoked because our scheduled date happened to coincide with Chris's release date. The SCC was unwilling to reschedule us. Mark Strong, the CEO of the SCC declined our request for an interview.
Music: The Black Spot
Photos: Jeff Emtman
Rank #2: HBM000: Hello There!
Thank you for subscribing. Here Be Monsters is a podcast about strange and unusual and beautiful and sometimes dark things.
Jeff Emtman started Here Be Monsters in 2012.
Here are three things you should know about the show:
You can listen to the episodes in any order you want, there’s no need to start from the beginning. Some of our oldest oldest episodes aren’t on the feed anymore, but you can hear them all on our website, HBMpodcast.com.
If you ever want to get in touch for any reason, it’s easy to do. We love hearing your feedback, your questions, your ideas for episodes, or secrets that you want to share. We have a contact form on our website, and we have a voicemail line: 765-374-5263.
Enjoy the show!
Rank #3: HBM120: Own Worst Interest
In the fall of 1989, in Vancouver, Washington, a short, 29 year-old man named Westley Allan Dodd raped and murdered three young boys. The boys were brothers Cole and William Neer, ages 10 and 11, and four year old Lee Isli.
A few weeks later, police arrested Westley at movie theater after he tried and failed to abduct another boy. He quickly confessed to the three murders. The prosecution sought the death penalty, and Dodd pled guilty.
Death penalty cases take a long time due to all the appeals built into the process. These appeals are designed to make sure the state hasn’t made any mistakes in the death sentence. They check for things like juror misconduct, incompetent defense lawyers, new evidence. Death penalty cases take years, sometimes decades.
Westley Allan Dodd did not want that. Instead, he wanted to be executed as quickly as possible.
In letters to the Supreme Court of Washington, Dodd urged the court to allow him to waive his right to appeal his death sentence. He believed he deserved to die for what he did, and wanted it done as soon as possible. Dodd was what’s known as a “volunteer”–someone who gives up their rights in order to hasten their own execution. The Death Penalty Information Center cites about 150 cases of “volunteers” in the United States.
Dodd’s case sparked debate both among people who supported and opposed the death penalty. Some argued he had the right to choose whether the court would review the validity of his death sentence. Others argued that the law ensures that all defendants have due process whether they want it or not.
In the meantime, Dodd continued to advocate for his own execution in interviews and in exchanges with his pen pals. He said he felt remorseful, and even wrote a self-defense booklet for kids to learn how to stay safe from men like him. The booklet was called “When You Meet A Stranger”.
The debate made its way to the Washington Supreme Court. In a 7-2 ruling, they decided that Dodd did, in fact, have the right to waive his remaining appeals. After just three years on death row (5 years shorter than the national average at that time) the State of Washington hanged Westley Allan Dodd.
On this episode Bethany Denton interviews Dodd’s former attorney Gilbert Levy. And defense attorney Jeff Ellis, who was a young lawyer during the time of the Dodd trial. Bethany also talks to Becky Price, who was one of the recipients of Dodd’s pamphlet “When You Meet A Stranger”.Letter filed to the Supreme Court of Washington state on behalf of Westley Allan Dodd where he asserts his desire to be executed quickly and waive his remaining appeals. Page 1 of 5 Letter filed to the Supreme Court of Washington state on behalf of Westley Allan Dodd where he asserts his desire to be executed quickly and waive his remaining appeals. Page 2 of 5
Letter filed to the Supreme Court of Washington state on behalf of Westley Allan Dodd where he asserts his desire to be executed quickly and waive his remaining appeals. Page 3 of 5
Letter filed to the Supreme Court of Washington state on behalf of Westley Allan Dodd where he asserts his desire to be executed quickly and waive his remaining appeals. Page 4 of 5 Letter filed to the Supreme Court of Washington state on behalf of Westley Allan Dodd where he asserts his desire to be executed quickly and waive his remaining appeals. Page 5 of 5 Westley Allan Dodd’s Sentencing Verdict, in which a jury unanimously agrees that he should be put to death. Page 1 of 1
In the meantime, check out our Art Exchange. It’s like a Secret Santa, only it takes place in the summer and each gift is an original piece of art: sculpture, photography, poem, song, painting, all kinds of things. Click here to sign up (the deadline is June 12, 2019)
Rank #4: HBM097: Fox Teeth
In the Westfjords of Iceland, people wait for birds to come ashore so that they can gather the feathers they leave behind. These birds, called Eider Ducks, are the source of eiderdown, a ridiculously expensive and rare stuffing for bedding.
Icelandic Language documentary on the production of eiderdown
This has (literally) landed the Arctic Fox in the crosshairs. These relatively common foxes are opportunistic eaters who snack on eider ducks if they get the chance.
So the Icelandic government placed a bounty on each fox killed (if you can provide its tail as proof). Hunters of the Westfjords set up elaborate baiting ambushes for the foxes, and wait in darkened houses with rifles in the middle of blizzards.
An Arctic Fox (vulpes lagopus).
But foxes are smart enough to not always take the bait.
Megan Perra heard a rumor of a three legged Icelandic fox named “Tripod” that beat the odds. A fox that grew to almost twice the normal size from stealing food from traps for three full years (or so the legend goes). Megan is an illustrator/journalist from Portland, Oregon, and she’s currently working on a video documentary about the foxes’ interactions with humans.
The taxidermied body of “Tripod”, a three-legged fox.
Pictured here carrying the body of a seabird (a razorbill).
She visits a rural gas station where she finds Jóhann Hannibalsson, the hunter who finally shot Tripod after years of trying. The two of them go on a snowmobile ride that brings them to a cabin where, in the dark, Megan witnesses Jóhann’s version of a fox hunt.
An Icelandic hunter, Jóhann Hannibalsson,
at a remote cabin where he intends to shoot a fox
Megan Perra produced this episode. Jeff Emtman edited with help from Bethany Denton. All visuals accompanying this episode are courtesy of Feral Five Creative Co / Megan Perra. Along the way, Megan also speaks to Ester Unnsteinsdóttir (a fox researcher), Siggi Hjartarson (a hunter), Stephen “Midge” Midgley (Manager at the Arctic Fox Centre), and Þorvaldur “Doddi” Björnsson (the taxidermist who preserved Tripod’s body).
The Northern Lights over an Icelandic mountain range.
In other news, if you live in the Boston area, and would like free shipping on our HBM Meat Poster, Jeff will deliver you one on his bike (while supplies last). Just purchase the poster as usual, then we’ll refund you the shipping cost. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to know if the offer’s still good or to see if you live within delivery range.
Rank #5: HBM100: Faraway Minds
Anna Klein thinks that tea tastes better on the Faroe Islands than in Denmark. She thinks the water’s more pure there, and the Northern Lights let the sky be whatever color it wants to be. She often thinks about moving there.
A sandy beach in Skagen, the northernmost town of mainland Denmark
But she also worries that her fantasies of running away to the remote corners of the world may be a familial urge to isolate herself, the same way her father did...a tendency that ultimately contributed to his early death.
It was a loving and hurtful relationship that led Anna to retrace her father's life. From her home in Aarhus, to his dying place of Copenhagen, to his hometown of Skagen, and then back to Aarhus again via the museum at Moesgaard.
(L) Anna Klein’s mother and father, (R) Anna's parents on their wedding day
Childhood photo of Anna wearing face paint
Anna Klein produced this episode. Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton edited. Nick White is our editor at KCRW, where there are a lot of people we don’t often get the chance to thank, but help us to make this show: including Gary Scott, Juan Bonigno, Adria Kloke, Mia Fernandez, Dustin Milam, Christopher Ho, Caitlin Shamberg, JC Swiatek, and many others.
Rank #6: HBM034: The Grandmother And The Vine Of The Dead
Ayahuasca is one of the most powerful and most illegal hallucinogens in the world. It contains DMT. But, for as long as anyone can remember, it's been used by people who have wanted to know more about the universe.
These people have traditionally been involved with shamanic tribes of the Amazon Rainforest, but in recent years, more and more people have had access to Ayahuasca through ceremonies lead by shamans in countries near the South American Equator.
Ayahuasca (also called Iowaska, Yagé, Vine of the Dead, La Madrecita, El Abuelo, etc.) is not a party drug. In fact, it can be absolutely terrifying...Ayahuasca has a reputation for spewing up the taker's darkest fears in front of visuals of multi-dimensional cosmic weirdness and forcing them to confront every dark thought they've ever had. But it also has a potential for intense healing.
In this episode, producer Lauren Stelling visits her old boss Cherub, who was facing a lot of grief after her best friend's daughter, Zippy, was killed in a freak accident of nature.
Cherub was seeking alternatives to the common American treatments for grief, so, she flew away from her home in Washington State, down to a tropical rain forest where shamans guided her on a week-long Ayahuasca journey to find healing from her grief.
The episode was produced by Lauren Stelling. She's a photographer living and working in Seattle, Washington. Check out her beautiful photographs. laurenlstelling.com
Big thanks to Choque Chinchay Journeys, who provided the recordings of icaros for this episode. biopark.org
Serocell unclassedmedia.com ←New!
Monster Rally monsterrally.bandcamp.com/ ←New!
Half Ghost gloriaandjohn.bandcamp.com/
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Learn more about the show here: http://HBMpodcast.com
Rank #7: HBM043: Last Chance To Evacuate Earth
Marshall Applewhite met Bonnie Nettles in 1972, and together they built a religion. It was called Heaven's Gate, and it drew heavily from the bible, astrology, and Star Trek. Applewhite and Nettles believed they were placed on Earth to deliver a holy message. They were the leaders of their new religion, and they changed their names to Do and Ti (pronounced "doe" and "tea"). After Nettle's death, the group developed a larger, stronger following, its doctrine evolved—incorporating more and more elements of outer space and astronomical phenomenons. In 1997, Heaven's Gate became known to the public as the world's most infamous UFO cult, when 39 members (including Applewhite) ate poison and died in their Californian mansion. They believed that the comet Hale Bopp was their exit to a higher life.
But before all this, Heaven's Gate supported itself financially through web design. The cult created a small company called Higher Source, and together, members of the group would travel to different businesses and build them their first websites. It was through Higher Source that Heather Chronert met the members of Heaven's Gate. She was an employee of the San Diego Polo Club, and it was her job to work closely with two Higher Source web designers on the design and execution of the polo club's website.
Steven and Yvonne Hill of Cincinnati, Ohio found Heaven's Gate online. The two were unhappy with their lives in Ohio, and when they happened on heavensgate.com, it seemed like they'd found a religion tailor-made for them. Steven and Yvonne abandoned their lives in Ohio and moved to California to join the cult. Steven was one of the last people to defect from Heaven's Gate before the comet lit up the sky and the believers of Heaven's Gate killed themselves.
If you're feeling suicidal, or know someone who is, know that help is available for you and that suicide is preventable. We recommend reaching out to The Samaritans, who operate a 24 hour hotline at (877) 870-4673. Callers outside of the US should look at organizations available in their country on this list from Suicide.org.
Screenshot of Higher Source's Website as of April 1997.
Screenshot of the San Diego Polo Club's Website as of April 1997. Website designed by Higher Source.
Heaven's Gate's website as of July 2015. The website is still maintained by 2 surviving members.
Heaven's Gate's statement against suicide.
Screenshot of Marshall Applewhite speaking in a Heaven's Gate recruitment tape. Abnormal coloration is due to VHS artifacts.
Screenshot of Marshall Applewhite speaking in a Heaven's Gate recruitment tape. Abnormal coloration is due to VHS artifacts.
Screenshot of Marshall Applewhite speaking in a Heaven's Gate recruitment tape. Abnormal coloration is due to VHS artifacts.
Screenshot of Marshall Applewhite speaking in a Heaven's Gate recruitment tape. Abnormal coloration is due to VHS artifacts.
Rank #8: HBM080: The Ocean of Halves [EXPLICIT]
Please Note: This episode is about sex. And there’s swearing.
Remi Dun enjoys her job. She's good at it, she makes good money, and she generally enjoys her clients’ company. And although her job rarely gives her sexual pleasure, one client with a curious tongue gave her two surprise orgasms. Another client doesn’t know that she stops making sexy faces as soon as he can’t see her. And another client simply wants companionship—his dad died recently and he’s still emotionally raw. And yet another client wants a rubber band around his balls—the thick blue kind you find on broccoli in the grocery store.
Remi is a part-time sex worker. She uses pseudonyms. She’s not out. She worries that her friends would see her as destitute and her parents would convince themselves they’d been bad parents. Still, Remi finds joy and security in her secret second job. She hopes to someday be out and proud, like the ones who have inspired her.
Balancing her “daytime” and “nighttime” selves is part of a bigger plan: to create a financial stability, to be fierce, to practice her feminism, and to develop her own romantic relationships with partners outside of work. Though, sometimes she feels lost in her identities, swimming in what she calls “the ocean of her halves.”
Remi contacted us to share her secret. We mailed her a recorder for several months to record diaries and sounds from her life. If you have a secret you’d like to share, please get in touch.
Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman produced this episode. Our editor at KCRW is Nick White. We are a part of the Independent Producer Project of KCRW.
The contents of Remi’s bag, laid on a bedsheet. Contents include coconut oil, wet wipes, money, mouthwash,
hosiery, lube, tampons, pepper spray / mace, condoms, cell phone charger, deoderant, eye drops, and cosmetics.
Want to help us design our next round of HBM merch? Submit a t-shirt design! If we pick your design, we’ll give you a couple of shirts and $450.
We’re on Season break! We’ll be back with Season 6 starting in the fall. Thank you for your supporting comments on Twitter, your reviews on iTunes / Apple Podcasts, and your likes on Facebook. We’re already working on Season 6. It will be even better.
Rank #9: HBM021: Potential Energy
Season 2 of Here Be Monsters begins.
The reasons why I bike fast at night are diverse. It’s partly because I don’t feel graceful anywhere else, it’s partly to run away, and it’s partly out of persistent defiance of my failing vision. But mostly, it's because it's a sensation totally alien to anything else in my life and it lets me think about things better.
I recently biked out to a parking garage on the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado and remembered the most significant moment of my eighteenth year, a night that made everything I do now possible.
The story involves electronic dance music, a laundromat, a bunch of sweaty teenagers pretending like it’s the eighties and one of the loudest amplifiers I’ve ever heard.
Here Be Monsters is now a proud member of the Mule Radio Syndicate, which distributes really great podcasts. Check them out at muleradio.net
Rank #10: HBM112: Negative Space
Back when HBM host Jeff Emtman was a photographer, he used to solve his problems with walks in the woods. There, he’d see the ways that branches frame the sky. As an artistic concept, negative space gets hogged a lot by the visual arts. In this episode, Jeff attempts to wrestle the concept into the sonic world; address his current problems by listening to the spaces between words and by listening to the ambiences of a semi-empty, possibly haunted hotel.
Joe, photo by Jeff Emtman, 2011
Lizzie, photo by Jeff Emtman, 2011
Kelsey, photo by Jeff Emtman, 2011
HBM021: Potential Energy, the version with words.
Rank #11: HBM108: Witch of Saratoga
Angeline Tubbs may have been as old as 104 when she died alone in the woods, in a hut she made with her own hands. She came to America with a British officer who fought in the Battle of Saratoga (see HBM074: Benedict Arnold Makes People Nervous).
Only known photograph of Angeline Tubbs. Circa 1860.
Republished in the January 30th, 1959 issue of The Saratogan.
It’s uncertain what happened to the officer, but soon after the battle, Angeline began living a hermit’s life, on the outskirts of society, alone in the forest with her cats. She foraged and hunter her food. Only rarely did she venture into the newly forming town of Saratoga Springs, where she made money by telling fortunes.
On this episode, producer Alessandra Canario walks into the woods near where Angeline Tubbs lived and died. She builds her own shelter, makes a fire, and cooks her own food. Alessandra wonders if she too might be a “witch,” due to a kinship she formed with trees as a child. But she also hears echoes of her mother’s warnings against being outside without a man for protection.
Alessandra Canario camps in a homemade shelter in the woods near
Saratoga Springs, New York. Photo by Alessandra Canario.
Leaves falling in the woods. Captured by Alessandra Canario.
Rank #12: HBM038: Do Crows Mourn Their Dead?
Crows have really strange habits around death. When a bird dies, crows gather, squawking loudly and gathering as many other birds as they can find to come and look at the dead body.
Much of what we know about crow funerals comes from the work of John Marzluff a biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. He and Kaeli Swift (one of his grad students) are trying to get to the bottom of these strange phenomena using taxidermy crows and masks and Cheetos and raw peanuts.
On this episode of Here Be Monsters, We look at the strange behaviors of crows and how they might be able to teach humanity about the origins of funerals and emotions.
We have a great photo album from the show up over at HBMpodcast.com. Check it out.
This episode was produced by Jeff Emtman.
Many thanks to David Kestenbaum of NPR's Planet Money for his help on a short version of this piece made for radio...keep your ears peeled. Listen to Planet Money here: www.npr.org/blogs/money/
Many thanks to Brian Emtman for tipping us off to this story.
Some of the crow sounds in this episode came from Cornell's Macaullay Library. Citation: macaulaylibrary.org/audio/45291
Other sounds came from the users of Freesound.
Creative Commons Attributions:
Flower Petal Downpour: @flower-petal-downpour
The Black Spot: theblackspot.bandcamp.com/
Rank #13: HBM024: The Friendliest Town In Texas [Explicit]
Shoppingspree Clark showed up on the side of the road outside the “Friendliest Town in Texas” with nothing more than a sketchpad and the burnt-out ruin of the RV he’d just bought.
Coleman, Texas’ self-claimed title is true because it used to be on a billboard above the highway. And the people that live there are diverse, troubled, religious, unusual…and friendly.
This episode contains many adult themes, including suicide, prejudice, and racism. There are also unbleeped swear words and racial slurs. Use discretion.
This episode was originally released by Shoppingspree Clark in June 2013 right here: User261897410 – Friendliest-town-in-texas-aac
Most of the music on this show comes from Shoppingspree himself. His moniker, Crunchy Person, has music on Bandcamp: crunchyperson.bandcamp.com/
This episode of HBM is brought to you by Squarespace. For a free trial and 20% off your new website (this month only), go to squarespace.com/ and use the promo code monsters9.
Rank #14: HBM084: Are You Sure You’re Awake?
Chrissy was having trouble remembering who she was when she woke up. First she thought it was early-onset dementia, then she thought it was schizophrenia. She had recurring hallucinations about being stalked by a beast that would talk to her while she slept.
A doctor eventually told her she was waking up frequently throughout the night, some 30+ times per hour. It was this inability to maintain a regular sleep cycle that helped her get a diagnosis of narcolepsy, explaining Chrissy’s excessive sleepiness, hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and episodes of cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle control after an emotional response).
Chrissy’s diagnoses frightened her. She tried to pretend it wasn’t true. But this attitude was forced to change one day when she woke up in traffic, driving 100kph with her kids in the back seat. She finally accepted her illness, recognized it as a beast, and looked for ways to feed it that wouldn’t affect her children. She says that’s the only way it’s won—if it gets her kids.
Some of Chrissy's Medications
This episode was produced by Bec Fary. Bec is a freelance audio producer and creator of the podcast Sleep Talker. Bec’s show is about sleep, dreams, and nightmares, and she’s covered narcolepsy before.
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Second, we want to hear from you for an upcoming episode. Here’s the question, what is unknowable to archaeologists of the future? A lot of knowledge can be preserved in writing, or in landfills, or in collective consciousness. But there must be things that the archaeologists, 3 million years from now, fundamentally can't understand about the world today. Maybe it's the smell of snow melting after a long winter. Maybe it's the softness of a stingray's skin. Maybe those archaeologists will look in vain for those "complete breakfasts" we were supposed to be eating with our Corn Pops.
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Rank #15: HBM059: When Cthulhu Calls
The most notable monster created by Howard Phillips Lovecraft was completely omnipotent, yet completely uncaring. A massive, tentacled being that sleeps in the depths of the ocean--Cthulhu. A creature that will one day rise again from its watery home to reclaim the Earth for itself.
In this episode of Here Be Monsters, we team up with Eric Molinsky of the Imaginary Worlds Podcast from Panoply Studios.
Eric speaks with Sheldon Solomon, a psychologist who co-founded the study of Terror Management Theory. Solomon explains the absurd lengths that humans go to avoid realizing their own mortality. And thus, Eric embarks on a fictional journey to find out why a creature so loathsome is constantly being turned into Cthulhu plushy toys and Cthulhu onesies for babies.
Eric visits a store call Love Craft in Redhook, New York, where he meets Roberta Suydam (played by Ann Scobie). Roberta tells him to look in the water off Rockaway point, Cthulhu is real. Seeking confirmation, he visits the Lovecraft Archives, deep in a basement lab in Lovecraft's hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. There, professor George Angell (played by Dan Truman) introduces him to the re-animated brain of "Howard" (played by Bill Lobely). Howard Lovecraft turns out to be just as racist in death as he was in life. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, Eric rents a boat to see what's out there in the waters off Rockaway Point, but as he draws closer to the dome rising from the water, he finds himself at wits' end.
Balancing the literary genius of Lovecraft's dark mythos with his unabashed xenophobia is no easy task. Readers must either choose to ignore the troubling aspects of his personal character, or disgrace him for his beliefs. Or possibly, they may superposition themselves in both camps at once, trying understand Lovecraft as if he's a just another creature in a universe of his own making.
Hey, by the way, we're having a Season 4 wrap party in Seattle in May. Let us know if you can make it.
Rank #16: HBM025: The Sasquatch Of Pumpkintown vs Motley Crue Jon Bon Jovi
Homemade Bigfoot costumes can get you in a lot of trouble. And in gun-toting community of Pumpkintown, SC, a fake Bigfoot costume might get you killed too. But when the recession caused a local outfitter’s store sales to sag, it was a risk he was willing to take.
In the episode, Ben Becker tells the story of a disgusting hound dog named “Motley Crue John Bon Jovi”, a tobacco-juice soaked Sasquatch suit, and the world’s worst hot sauce.
Sharp listeners should note that no one fact-checked a single claim in this story. Wait, actually, we did look up Pumpkintown on Google Maps. It’s a real place. Use discretion before you use anything else in your term paper.
This episode is sponsored by Squarespace, the easiest way to create a professional website. They’ve got a great deal for HBM listeners. Go to squarespace.com and use the promo code “monsters9” to get 10% off and a free trial.
Rank #17: HBM091: Hypnosis of Hunger
Producer Bethany Denton found a box in her basement storage room with two old cassette tapes inside. It took her a moment to realize what they were.
Bethany at Disneyland with her brother Jared and her sister Shelby. 2001.
Bethany has been fat her whole life, even when she was a kid. She ate hidden stashes of food when she felt anxious. By the time she was eleven years old, Bethany’s parents worried she would have health problems as as an adult, and they thought weight-loss hypnotherapy could help. The hypnotherapist tried to guide Bethany’s subconscious mind into making choices that would help her lose weight, like developing the ability to control her hunger with an imaginary dial in her mind. The hypnotherapist had Bethany visualize her favorite greasy, salty potato chips covered in vomit. She had Bethany visualize her ideal, thin body, and affirmed that this ideal body was “who you really are.” The therapist recorded their sessions and gave them to Bethany on cassette tapes. She was supposed to use them to relax.
Bethany at Disneyland with her sister Ashley and her brother Jared. 2001.
Fifteen years later, Bethany never lost the weight, never achieved that ideal body. But she doesn't really eat potato chips anymore either. For information about treatment for disordered eating, visit The Emily Program.
Bethany Denton produced this episode and Jeff Emtman edited it. Here Be Monsters is part of KCRW’s Independent Producer Project, edited by Nick White and managed by Kristen Lepore.
Music: The Black Spot
→ Be sure to check out our merch, and don’t miss Meat Poster -- just in time for Valentine’s Day. ←
Do you have questions about how the show is made? Ever wonder how Jeff and Bethany work together? Who the hell is this “Nick White” guy? Give us a call, and we’ll answer it in an upcoming mailbag episode. Call us at (765) 374 - 5263 or send us a voice memo: HBMpodcast@gmail.com.
Rank #18: HBM063: The Art of the Scam, by Malibu Ron [EXPLICIT]
Presumably, any given mystic falls into one of two groups: true believers and scam artists. But it's near impossible to know which they are unless they tell you outright.
On this episode of Here Be Monsters, Jeff Emtman has a conversation with a scam artist. Vice Media would call an "Etsy witch"; he calls himself a "haunted demon seller". Regardless, he doesn't give out his real name.
For the purpose of this show, let's just call him "Malibu Ron". Malibu makes his living selling trinkets supposedly imbued with spirits: sex demons, werewolves, mermaids, djinn, vampires, etc. Malibu sells the intangible beings and spells for as little as $5 and as much as $11,000.
Malibu got into the business, ten-ish years ago, while he was very sick. He had to take extended leave from his job selling cell phones. In his months of recovery, he read a lot online. He found out about Etsy Witches and, as a joke, tried to sell a cheap ring imbued with a sex demon. It sold for $12. He decided not to go back to his old job and instead focus on expanding his magic business. He now manages many (he won't tell us how many) identities and stores online.
Malibu spends his money shoes. He values his personal collection of Nike Dunk SBs and Air Jordans at over $20,000. Several of his pairs are one-offs, meaning he's the only one in the world who owns them. His home, his clothing, and all of his other outward appearances (apart from the shoes) are modest. Malibu says that he lives well, but that he's no Donald Trump--he's not rich.
Malibu feels no guilt in his scam. He doesn't sell death curses, or sex enslavement enchantments, or spells that could heal you from a terminal illness. That's where the moral line is, and he doesn't cross it. And further, he says his clients are mostly rich.
Why do some believe in magic? Malibu says it's to protect them from realizing their cosmic insignificance. And he doesn't believe in magic (except for God, and maybe aliens).
Jeff Emtman produced this episode with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White.
Music: Serocell ||| The Black Spot
Like the show? Please review us on iTunes. Want to send us a sex demon? Do it on Twitter @HBMpodcast
Malibu Ron's shoe collection, sans several pairs that are one-offs that only he owns.
Rank #19: HBM071: The Evangelists of Nudism
Growing up Mormon in Montana, Bethany Denton had a phrase drilled into her mind from an early age: “modest is hottest.” To her, it became a mantra even while many of her friends, especially other girls, struggled with Mormonism’s strict modesty standards. But never Bethany–she was fat enough to know that no one wanted to see that anyway.
By the time Bethany moved to Washington State for college, she had rejected the church and was looking for new, broader experiences. She got a job as a campus security officer, started drinking, and began wading into feminism. She looked for new, non-Mormon role models to help her find adventure. That’s when she met Helen, a punk rock pirate who invited Bethany to join her for an all-expenses paid nude vacation, courtesy of an eccentric tech millionaire who evangelized the merits of nudism.
Bethany said yes, and went with Helen to California to bake in the sun for a week, and to learn about the body she’d been hiding for the past 20 years, learn to de-couple nakedness from sexuality.
And when she returned, she felt utterly changed. But she’d soon tearfully discover she was not entirely untangled from childhood guilt.
Names in this story have been changed.
This episode was written and produced by Bethany Denton, and was edited by Jeff Emtman. Nick White is HBM’s editor at KCRW.
Rank #20: HBM031: The Roman Slug Death Orgy
In a strange, small, moss-covered forest in Bellingham, Washington, Jeff stumbled on to the most gruesome scene of hedonism he's ever seen.
While it's not common for humans to witness slug death orgies, every once an unsuspecting human wanders into one of the most perverse rituals on the planet.
These slugs are most likely European Red Slugs (Arion Rufus), which were first noticed in the Western United States by a Californian biologist who found one in a lawn in Seattle.
Now, the slugs are commonplace, and have incredible omnivorous, cannibalistic, and genetalial (not a word) appetites.
Some parts of slug life are akin to aristocratic Roman life under the rule of Caligula, a figure that historians love to hate...prostitution, incest, murder, insanity, sloth, greed, etc. While the stories of Caligula's perversity and violence are often debated and overblown, no one in their right mind argues that he was a good emperor or even someone you'd want to grab lunch with.
This episode marks the launch of the long-awaited third season of Here Be Monsters. Be sure to rate us on iTunes and tell your friends---is.gd/HBMitunes
Visit us online: HBMpodcast.com
(please note that Olecranon Rebellion doesn't have a website. Send us an email if you want a copy of his CD)
This episode is sponsored by Squarespace, the easiest way to create a professional website. They’ve got a great deal for HBM listeners. Go to SquareSpace.com and use the promo code “monsters” to get a special deal on your new website.