Love true crime? Check out “Accused” during #TryPod Month

Drowning in an endless sea of podcasts? Join the club. I’ve found that it’s absolutely essential to use your network of friends and coworkers to help curate all the content that’s available in today’s media-rich world.

And when it comes to newsy, true crime podcasts, my tried and true resource is my news junkie friend at work, Holly. She’s the one who told me to listen to “Serial,” which sparked the same interest in podcasts for me as it did for millions of others. Then, she recommended “Stranglers,” which is also excellent.

Most recently, Holly told me about “Accused,” and that’s the podcast I want to share with you this week.

#TryPod: “Accused: The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Andes

Lauded as the “Serial” of 2016, “Accused” is a project of “The Cincinnati Enquirer,” and is created by journalists Amber Hunt and Amanda Rossmann. Like Sarah Koenig of “Serial,” Hunt and Rossmann approach the case professionally, but not entirely objectively. They have opinions, and often share them with listeners, while striving to be open, honest and fair to all parties involved.

With 191,000 cold cases on the record books in America, what makes this case interesting? Like any good story, it’s about the people. Elizabeth Andes had just graduated college in 1978 when she was brutally murdered. She was smart, loved and about to embark on a future that surely would have held great promise.

Her football-playing boyfriend, Bob Young, was immediately accused and later tried (twice, actually) and acquitted for the murder. The podcast asks, “If not Bob, then who?” and listeners are along for the ride.

Suspects range from acquaintances to serial killers operating in Ohio at that time. One of the best episodes focuses on the suspects who were strangers to Andes — delving into the prevalence of serial murder during the ’70s and the possible causes for the high levels of violent crime during that decade. This is a fascinating topic, and one that could be expanded into a podcast in its own right.

In addition to offering a great story, Hunt and Rossmann’s work on “Accused” poses some interesting questions about journalistic ethics and criminal justice. By investigating an unsolved murder, they walk the line between private detectives and reporters. Sometimes it’s not safe or easy — there are some genuine moments of tension with potential suspects and law enforcement officers who still insist that Young got away with murder.

You’ll walk away from “Accused” with theories about the case but no definite answers, which might feel anti-climactic to some, but for this curious listener, it’s all about the new questions that arise along the way.

Have a true crime recommendation of your own for #TryPod month? Share it here!

Discover a great new listen during #TryPod month: This week try Awesome Etiquette

A little over a year ago, I moved into a brand spankin’ new workspace – modern and open. It’s a great space for collaboration, creativity and efficiency, but sometimes even an extrovert like me needs a break from the newsroom-style space with 20 or so vivacious creatives.

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Here I am at work listening to a podcast.

In this open space, my headphones are a refuge and a way to retreat when I want to do some quiet, focus work.

When I’m not listening to music, I am listening to podcasts – I have a strong, deeply held desire to learn, and podcasts are a feast for the learner’s soul. In honor of #TryPod month, I’ll be sharing my top recommendations at least once a week in March.

Awesome Etiquette

“Awesome Etiquette” is produced weekly by Dan Post Senning and Lizzie Post, great-great grandchildren of the grand dame of etiquette, Emily Post. They tackle everything from the traditional (“Should a lady always cross her legs at the ankles?”) to the contemporary (“How do I pull off a vegan wedding when my mom wants a carving station?”).

Listeners can submit questions and etiquette dilemmas, and Dan and Lizzie always take the time to do a deep dive on at least 1 burning issue. Every episode ends with an etiquette salute.

Dan and Lizzie are charming – but what makes this podcast so great is that it is based on heartfelt consideration, respect and building close, personal relationships that enrich our lives. Far from being a stuffy notion, etiquette is demystified into bite-size chunks of information that make our lives more comfy, less awkward and more authentic.

Have a recommendation for me? I’m always adding to my listening list, so feel free to suggest your favorites!

HYGGE LISTENING: CURL UP, PLUG IN, AND PAY ATTENTION TO THESE PODCASTS

By Andrea Rogers Hygge is all about taking pleasure in the small things and being present, so it might not immediately bring to mind your smartphone and earbuds. But thanks to a boom in podcasting over the last couple years and a trend toward higher production values, better writing, and professional voice acting, I’m just…

via Hygge listening: Curl up, plug in, and pay attention to these podcasts — The Smart Domestic

Hail Zombo: A recap of Theatre Bizarre

From the moment you walk into The Masonic for Theatre Bizarre, you feel like you stepped into another world — a dreamlike, dark fantasy.

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There are sideshow performers everywhere — sword swallowers, suspension performers, fire breathers, dancers, contortionists and more — set in the vast, lavishly decorated Masonic complex in Detroit. The performers interact with you on an almost intimate level — touching your shoulder, whispering in your ear, beckoning you to come closer.

There are 8 floors and about 10 venues within The Masonic, and there’s no way you can see everything at Theatre Bizarre as shows run continuously in every venue. All of the performances are expertly staged and seamless, which is amazing considering the scale of the event.

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Photo Credit: Amy Hronek

Our merry band of revelers (pictured above, left to right: my partner in life and crime, me, and our BFFs Dave and Amy) started the night with a visit to The Dirty Devils Peepshow burlesque revue. Early in the night, the crowds were small, and we were front and center for the show.img_0810

The burlesque performers are a highlight for me — I love the old Hollywood glamour of burlesque.

We stayed for 3 shows — all the ladies were fierce, but Tana the Tattooed Lady stole the show. Tana was mesmerizing, beautiful, exotic, alluring (basically everything you want in a burlesque show).

The Ballroom on the lowest level is the main stage and features bands and dancers all night. The Theatre Bizarre brass band also comes through, and that’s something you don’t want to miss. This is also the best place to “people watch” — the costumes at Theatre Bizarre are incredible and never disappoint.

Although I really wanted to see Mat Fraser (star of American Horror Story Freak Show), The Odditorium where he was performing was jam-packed mid-way through the night, so we moved on.

img_0817Food and drinks are plentiful, which is fortunate, because this event is an all-nighter. There’s even an Ice Screams & Sweet Dreams ice cream parlor, where you can get a free, handmade cup of liquor-infused sorbet or ice cream, served by some creepy-cute soda jerks. I went with the blood orange sorbet, which was quite refreshing.

We had the privilege of watching a full set from Cult of the Psychic Fetus, a gothic rockabilly band from Cleveland. The sound in the smaller ballroom, The Asylum, where they played was great, and there were even seats around the perimeter, which was a huge bonus for my tired feet (I don’t often wear high heels, so I was one tired flapper by night’s end).

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Photo credit: Amy Hronek

We wandered down to a smaller stage called The Beezlepub and my ears immediately perked up when I heard a cover of “Henry Lee,” by Nick Cave and PJ Harvey (on the perfect album “Murder Ballads”). Up next in the set was a quirky version of “Who Was in My Room Last Night” by Butthole Surfers. If I was intrigued before, I was all in at this point. The band, Brunswick Brawlers, played a great set of country-rockabilly covers and originals.

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Weary from a a long night on our feet, our motley band of best buds settled into seats in The Sinema and watched a couple silent shorts, as well as some clips from “The Devil’s Rain.” I found myself nodding off a couple times, which meant it was time to wind down for the evening. My pumpkin turns into a carriage not too long after the stroke of midnight.

As I looked at my Instagram story the next day, I was struck by all the happenings from the previous evening. Theatre Bizarre is grand in scale — and the memories are like a dream — singular moments, strange sights and sensuous characters that leave a strong impression.

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The Black Tapes Podcast: Season 2 CliffsNotes

WARNING – This blog post is me at my geekiest, and contains lots of theories and spoilers about The Black Tapes podcast. If you want to read Season 1 CliffsNotes, check out my post here

Confession time: I have a little black notebook where I keep all my work and blog notes, as well as my nutso scribblings about The Black Tapes Podcast. And I doodle a lot. 

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Because my CliffsNotes from season 1 were helpful to others, I decided to publish the notes I took for season 2 as well. Because the episodes are so interconnected and the story is very intricate, the notes are a bit longer than Season 1.  So without further ado, here you go. Feel free to leave corrections/suggestions in the comments.

Episode 1 – Sleepless in Seattle

  • Season 1 recap — Coralee Strand is probably alive. Keith Dabic (obsessed with The Unsound, of the band Hastur Rising) and Amalia (Alex’s Russian journalist friend looking for Keith) are still missing.
  • Thomas Warren (aka “Sexy James Bond”)  is the CEO of an energy conglomerate, Deva Corp. (Is he “The Advocate” following Strand?)
  • Alex is suffering from insomnia.
  • Strand goes on leave — he wants Alex to stop prying into his personal story.
  • Rebecca Yi, a listener, seeks Alex’s help for her daughter, Katie. Rebecca reports strange occurrences – furniture moving on its own, Katie talking to herself, and sacred geometry scratched under Katie’s bed.
  • Elizabeth Sawyer, Katie’s nanny, refutes all of Rebecca’s claims and says she is crazy.
  • Alex discovers that Strand is obsessed with finding Coralee, and Strand asks for her help.

Episode 2 – Speak No Evil, Think No Evil

  • Strand shares something with Alex “off the record.”
  • Alex gets a tip that includes 2 videos related to a case of a hunter who was living in a cave with a strange book, and later committed suicide. One video shows the hunter scratching in the dirt, and the other shows a 2-legged creature with deer’s legs.
  • Alex takes the book to a rare book dealer, Gloria Cohen. Cohen claims it’s a book of spells devoted to bringing demons into our world. Cohen is creepy and seems intent on getting Alex to say the demon’s names.
  • Alex starts seeing Dr. Burnett, who encourages her to keep a sleep journal.
  • Amalia turns up in Seattle.

Episode 3 – Hush Little Baby

  • Alex’s lack of sleep is affecting her quality of life — she is seeing and hearing things during her waking hours.
  • Alex is contacted by Wendy Hochman, a listener. There are strange sounds coming from her infant son’s room and a pentagram drawn under his crib (same symbol as that found in: Simon Reese’s room, the cabin where Sebastian Torres was found, and Rebecca Yi’s daughter’s room).
  • Strand shows up in the studio acting erratically. He tells Alex that Thomas Warren sponsored an archaeological dig in Iraq for the goddess Tiamet. Strand’s father wrote an unpublished paper about this.
  • Although she had previously claimed not to know anything, Nic and Alex hear the Hochmans’ housekeeper chanting on the baby monitor tape.  The Hochmans are MIA, so Alex and Nic seek out the housekeeper (Maddie Franks), who they find dead, in a ransacked apartment covered in blood.

Episode 4 – Voices Carry

  • Brenda Miller, a grimoire specialist, takes a look at the book from Ep. 2. She claims it is a satanic hymnal to usher in demons (related to evil composers Scriabin/Percival Black?).
  • Alex discovers an extra 5 minute interval in one of her sleep notes, which upon further examination is her chanting “Azazeel.”
  • Strand is losing weight, not leaving his office, and asks to meet with Amalia. When he meets with her, he asks her about a blond woman at an auction. Alex eavesdrops and airs the discussion.
  • Nic finds an online countdown clock timed for 1 year after The Black Tapes aired The Unsound.
  • Alex discovers another anomaly in a sleep note — the sound of knocking (1 for yes, 2 for no, ala Simon Reese when he was selectively mute). The knocking indicates that Strand is in trouble.
  • Alex reaches out to Tanis Braun (the renowned psychic from season 1). Tanis tells her to ask Strand about the “Cheryl” tape and says Strand is at the center of the mystery.

Note: After this episode, Alex goes on hiatus to a secluded cabin to try to get some sleep.  

Episode 5 – Cheryl

  • Strand is living in Seattle in his father’s house.
  • Alex and Nic receive a recorded message for Strand with a digitized voice. Strand links the message to the Empress Hotel in Canada where he honeymooned with Coralee.
  • Keith Dabic sends 3 messages:
    • A sound file that may be the cure for The Unsound.
    • A sound file with “infrasound,” which can be harmful to the listener — causing nausea and/or visions.
    • A selfie taken at Glushka, the monastery in Russia  (Season 1, Ep. 10). Recall: Glushka is home to the Order of the Cenophus.
  • The blood on the wall at Maddie Franks’s (the dead Hochman nanny) was not her blood and there were symbols painted under the blood.
  • Strand lets Alex watch the Cheryl tape. It’s him (as a young boy) with a girl. The girl, Cheryl, claims to see figures outside the house, and then they both claim to see a figure in the room. It’s a Black Tape because Strand doubts what he saw that night.

Episode 6 – All In the Family

  • Cheryl is Strand’s sister. She tells Alex to ask about “the boy by the river.” Alex goes to see Strand, and asks to share the off-record info from Ep. 2 (which she secretly recorded, and Nic makes her delete).
  • Strand believes he is being stalked by a group after his father’s work.
  • Alex and Nic receive another tape with the computerized voice — it’s a warning for Strand. Alex sets off and intercepts him in Canada.
  • They find a strange painting in the room where he stayed with Coralee — a man with deer legs, dogs tearing an animal apart. Their cars are burglarized.
  • Simon calls Alex and warns her about Amalia. Simon also tells her that he killed his parents because, like Maddie Franks (the dead housekeeper), they were trying to bring him into the “cause.” (Is Simon actually a good guy?)
  • Alex asks Amalia about her whereabouts. Amalia reveals that she received The Unsound from Alex’s personal email.

Episode 7 – Personal Possessions

  • Nic finds a deep Web forum that claims The Advocate is recruiting, and Strand’s name is on a list. Someone claims to have a photo of The Advocate, but you must leave a note in a mailbox in Maine to get it.
  • The painting from The Empress hotel has a cipher on the back based on the book “9 Stories.”
  • Alex interviews Jessica Wheldon (the possessed 12-year-old girl from Season 1, Ep. 5). She is now 35, and she believes she was brainwashed, not possessed. Her parents committed suicide. She puts Alex in touch with “John.”
  • “John” was also possessed, and had an exorcism performed. The tape of his exorcism reveals it to be a fraud — it is not performed by priests, and the walls of the room contain sacred geometry and the upside down face.
  • Cheryl reveals that their father was absentee until he took a special interest in Strand. She stopped talking to Strand after Coralee disappeared.

Episode 8 – Riverview

  • The book cipher is a warning from Coralee: “Leave me. Find Advocate. Simon Reese.”
  • Nic and Alex go to Canada to meet Thomas Warren at a conference and are intercepted by Sammie, the woman who claimed to have a photo of the Advocate, who is also looking for Warren.
  • Alex and Nic get box of records from Riverview Mental Hospital marked “E. Hausdorff, ’71-’75”. Hausdorff was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, made reference to “Mr. Splitfoot” and may have had the ability to bi-locate (like Simon Reese).  An exorcism was performed on him (sacred geometry and drawings similar to those in the caves were in the room). Nic theorizes that the men performing the “exorcisms” on Hausdorff, “John” and Jessica Wheldon are all connected. Strand says that the numbers and symbols on the walls point to “pelori” AKA “watchers,” who are guardians of children offered for ritual sacrifice.
  • The boy by the river is Bobby Maines, whose body was found in Red Bank Creek in 1976.
  • Simon Reese goes missing from the mental hospital.

Episode 9 – Brothers of the Mount

  •  Bobby Maines was abducted by a gas station attendant and murdered, the attendant died by lethal injection. Wesley Coates found the body.
  • Strand reveals that Pelori are similar to legend of Rumpelstiltskin, except that they get their power from a symbol, the sign of the Cult of Tiamet (on Coralee’s ring, in the cave paintings, subject of his father’s work that Thomas Warren is interested in).
  •  Sammi (woman from Maine) goes MIA after making a warning call to Alex and Nic.
  • Deva Corp. has been funding paranormal research.
  • Edward Lewis (Simon Torres’ kidnapper) is found dead in his cell. At the same time, 8 other men (Brothers of the Mount) killed themselves. Ritualistic suicide pact? Symbol from Simon Reese’s room is present at both crime scenes — did Simon bi-locate and murder the monks?
  •  Simon reaches out to Alex and said that Brothers of the Mount were trying to raise a chorus of children’s voices. He asks Alex to look into Thomas Warren’s machine.
  • Amalia contacts Alex with a picture of what looks to be something awful related to Keith Dabic.
  • A user in Bulgaria named “Hastur” (Keith Dabic?) sends Nic and Alex a sound file.
  • Hausdorff was admitted to a mental hospital at age 12 for killing his parents (just like Simon Reese).

Episode 10: Welcome to the Machine

  • Nic is researching the machine used in “John’s” exorcism — connects it to a robotics lab that makes rare machines, and specializes in pachinko. Thomas Warren recently took possession of a batch of machines — except they weren’t really pachinko games, according to the delivery man, who witnessed an “exorcism” at drop-off.
  •  In researching stories related to ghost hunting equipment, Nic comes across the symbol on Coralee’s ring on a machine.
  • Alex looks at Strand’s father’s research and stumbles upon letters hidden behind a photo. the letters reference preparing Richard for the “mantle of the dragon” and a 14-digit number (possibly the location of the highest peak in Turkey, aka the Axis Mundi, a place to play Scriabin’s Mysterium symphony to usher in the demon apocalypse).
  • Referencing the Sagamore Hotel Black Tape from Season 1, Ep. 1, Alex’s intern believes Strand is hiding something. It turns out Percival Black stayed at The Sagamore the same year he joined the Order of the Cenophus and composed The Unsound. Black is working to finish the Mysterium.
  • Wesley Coates says that his childhood friend, Richard Strand, led him to the body of Bobby Maines.

Episode 11: About a Boy

  • Wesley Coates said Richard Strand had a dream about about the location of Bobby Maines’ body. Was/is Strand a psychic? Strand gets mad at Alex when she asks him this.
  • Nic and Alex get a second sound file from “Hastur” and a code that contains map coordinates to the Chattahoochee National Forest.
  • Amalia tells Alex that the photo mentioned in Ep. 9 is “not exactly” Keith Dabic — rather, it’s an unidentified man with Dabic’s face sewn on his own.
  • Tiamet is part of The Gnostic Gospels, which reference the 5 seals to usher in the apocalypse.
  • Thomas Warren requests a meeting, but when Alex and Strand arrive at Deva Corp. they are intercepted by Coralee in a van.

Episode 12: The Axis Mundi

  • Coralee takes Strand and Alex to a house, speaks with Strand briefly, and leaves. Strand and Alex drive home and talk all night (Editors note: this really had me feeling the feels!)
  • Coralee was a “watcher,” an agent for the Advocate assigned to look after Strand. The marriage was a set-up but she ended up falling in love with Strand and went on the run from her handlers. Thomas Warren was her liaison. The Advocate believes Strand holds a genetic key.
  • Strand tried to rekindle his psychic ability when Coralee left, and was unable to do so. He no longer believes it was psychic ability that led him to Bobby Maines. He doesn’t know if The Black Tapes are connected, but there are more than 100 of them.
  • Alex calls her Urraca Mesa cave guide (from Season 1, Ep. 12) and it turns out that the last 2 Anasazi totems guarding the gateway are now gone.
  • Strand, Nic and Alex finally meet Thomas Warren, who offers to finance the Strand Institute (which is broke) if Strand will join Deva Corp.
  • The 14 digit code is not a GPS coordinate to peak in Turkey — it’s the IP address of The Black Tapes studio.
  • Unbeknownst to them at the time, Alex and Nic have played all 5 movements of the Mysterium, in order, on the podcast. They are: The Unsound (Season 1, Ep. 3), the sound file from Russia (Season 1, Ep. 9), the Unsound “cure” (Season 2, Ep. 5), the first sound file from “Hastur” (Season 2, Ep. 5) and the second sound file from “Hastur” (Season 2, Ep. 11), Simon Reese warns of coming chaos and death, and a curse on all who have heard the 5 movements.

The Black Tapes Podcast: Season 1 CliffsNotes

WARNING – This blog post is me at my geekiest, and contains lots of theories and spoilers about The Black Tapes podcast.

I love The Black Tapes podcast, but somewhere in between last season and this season, I got a little lost. There are a lot of characters, and the story isn’t told in a straight narrative fashion — it flips back and forth between new cases and the overarching arc related to Dr. Strand.

That’s a picture of me trying to figure out what the heck is going on in The Black Tapes.

So I have been obsessively listening to all the episodes again, and writing notes like a total nut job to keep track of things. I thought I would make my super-short summaries available here in case other listeners would find them helpful.

For other super fans, a disclaimer — these aren’t intended to be complete episode recaps, transcripts or a listing of characters. This was just a way for me to jot down a few relevant bullet points to keep track of what has happened to this point and possible connections between the tapes.

Hope you find it helpful, and if I got anything wrong, leave a comment and let me know (like I said, I’m a bit confused).

Episode 1 – A Tale of Two Tapes, Part I

  • Alex goes with a paranormal researcher named Dr. Dumont on an investigation — the former site of an abandoned mental hospital. Some odd occurrences happen.
  • Alex meets Dr. Strand, who debunks her experience with Dr. Dumont.
  • Alex discovers The Black Tapes, and watches the Torres tape.

Episode 2 – A Tale of Two Tapes, Part II

  • Alex and Dr. Strand re-open the Torres case.
  • Robert Torres believed he was stalked for years by a shadowy figure, and it seems that the figure began following his son, Sebastian.
  • Maria, the mother, is estranged from Robert and has sheltered Sebastian from all photos where the figure appears.
  • Sebastian calls the figure Tall Paul.

Episode 3 – The Unsound

  • Keith Dabic, a member of the band, Hastur Rising, reaches out to Dr. Strand about the unsound.
  • Legend has it that those who listen to the unsound die within a year after they hear it and that the sound is an invitation for demons into our world.
  • Another member of the band, Jeff Wendt, became obsessed with the sound, even working it into the music, and killed himself.
  • Alex finds out that Dr. Strand was married, and that his wife, Coralee, went missing.
  • Travis Collinwood, a former assistant of Dr. Strand’s, became obsessed with the unsound and died 4 months after leaving the Strand Institute.

Episode 4 – Turn That Frown Upside Down

  • Alex gets a mysterious, ominous message on her phone from an unknown caller.
  • Dr. Strand and Alex investigate another Black Tape, the case of Fiona DeNevers, a young woman who died of a heart attack.
  • Fiona’s family has been haunted by the ghost of Sarah Benning, who according to local legend, killed her high school bully, Catherine Williams, by cutting her face off and sewing it on her own, upside down. The town has a macabre festival called the Upside Down Face Festival.
  • Alex interviews Coralee’s parents, who suspect Dr. Strand in her disappearance.

Episode 5 – The Devil You Know

  • Dr. Strand and Alex re-open a Black Tape case of an exorcism filmed by Dr. Strand, of 12-year-old Jessica Wheldon, who was possessed by the archdemon, Grigori (possibly AKA Tall Paul?).
  • Alex consults with Father James Kelly and Dr. Brad Gilbert (a psychologist), who give differing views on exorcism. She also interviews Derek, who was possessed.
  • Alex meets Brayden Court, who had a one-night stand with Coralee, suspects Dr. Strand killed her, and claims to have nothing to do with the message on Alex’s phone.
  • Alex and Nic discover some found audio footage from 1997 of Coralee, talking about bees, monogamy and love. Coralee mentions someone named Warren before the audio cuts out.

Episode 6 – The Devil’s Door

  • Alex gets a call from 3 Rivers State Hospital in Idaho related to a patient, Simon Reese.
  • Simon is a selective mute who was ruled to be criminally insane after killing his parents at age 11. Evidence was flimsy, and didn’t definitely place him in his parents’ room.
  • Simon is in trouble at the hospital for allegedly strangling another patient, Trent Orville. However, video footage shows he never left his room.
  • Sacred geometry and the symbol of a pentagram in a double circle appear in the room. Simon is obsessed with both, and believes the symbols provide him a gateway to bi-locate (be in 2 places at once).
  • Simon wants to use the symbols to summon a demon. Possibly Grigori (aka Tall Paul)?
  • Sebastian Torres, the boy stalked by Tall Paul from Episode 2, goes missing.

Episode 7 – Cabin Fever

  • Alex and Dr. Strand are questioned about Sebastian Torres.
  • Police call Tannis Braun, a renowned psychic, for help in the case.
  • Tannis and Alex go for a walk, and Dr. Strand gets grumpy. (Sidebar: I am seriously shipping Strand and Alex, so I’m hoping that’s jealousy).
  • Sebastian is found in a cabin with sacred geometry (a la Simon Reese, Ep. 6), the pentagram symbol and the face of Grigori (the archdemon from Ep. 5’s exorcism) drawn on the walls.

Episode 8 – Board to Death

  • Alex and Dr. Strand investigate a Black Tape with research on 2 types of Ouija boards — the traditional game, and one called a Demon Board.
  • While the Ouija board  is used to make contact with spirits who have passed, the Demon Board is a way to communicate with demons.
  • The research with the Demon Board got pretty spooky — the subject claims to have seen a demon, with goat legs and long hair. Possibly Grigori/Tall Paul?
  • The symbols on the Demon Board are the same as those found in the cabin and Simon’s artwork.

Episode 9 – Name that Tune

  • As they are trying to find Warren (mentioned in the found footage Coralee tape from Ep. 5), Alex and Nic get a lead on Coralee — a PO Box she used under the alias Lisa Graves.
  • Keith Dabic (of the band Hastur Rising, Ep. 3) leaves a message for Alex — he’s become obsessed with The Unsound, and is off the grid in Russia.
  • Dabic mentions 2 people:
    • Percival Black, who lives in a Russian monastery and may be able to compose something that can neutralize The Unsound. Alex contacts Black and he’s never met Dabic.
    • Alex Scriabin, an early 1900s composer of music with mystical ties – Scriabin believed that through the repeating patterns of music, he could unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Episode 10 – Their Satanic Monastery’s Request

  • Alex’s friend Amalia, a journalist based in Moscow, starts looking for Percival Black.
  • Black took a vow of silence after he spoke with Alex. He’s a member of the reclusive and secretive Order of the Cenophus.
  • The Order of the Cenophus has a chapter in Glushka, where a séance took place in the ’80s. Renowned medium Clara Simone believed the monks wanted to find out the name of their resident demon (who appears as a tall, shadowy figure).
  • Strand reveals that he found out Coralee was having an affair when she disappeared.
  • Amalia receives a warning and goes missing.

Episode 11 – The Codex Gigas

  • Alex finds out that Strand and Coralee were in a heated argument, just before she walked off never to be seen again.
  • Alex contacts Percival Black’s old roommate — who last saw Black as he was going off to a pagan boulder field in Bath. There is a cave there with ancient paintings that feature animal and possibly human sacrifice. They also have upside-down face figures.
  • The Order of the Cenophus was founded as an offshoot of the Benedictine monks on a text called The Codex Gigas, a dark chapter of something called The Demon Bible, written by a disgruntled monk.
  • Alex gets a mysterious visit from “sexy James Bond.”

Episode 12 – Shadow Dancing

  • Alex asks Strand if the tapes are connected, and he refutes her theories.
  • Sebastian Torres’s kidnapper, Edward Lewis, is caught and will only talk to Strand. Lewis is a monk from the order, Brothers of the Mount. The Brothers have a connection to the Upside Down Face Festival – some of them escaped capture to the town around the time it was founded.
  • Alex investigates cave paintings at Urraca Mesa, eerily similar to those in Bath, and uncovers a tape filmed there that features the same demon/figure mentioned in the Demon Board Black Tape (Ep. 8).
  • Strand interviews Lewis, who claims that someone called “The Advocate” has watched Strand his whole life and Strand has all the pieces of the puzzle.
  • “Sexy James Bond” is identified as Thomas Warren.
  • Lisa Graves (aka Coralee Strand) checks her PO Box.

What does all this mean? Here’s my theory of what’s going on after Season 1: Strand’s Black Tapes are all connected. To what? I think the Order of the Cenophus has been engaged in activities to try to bring Tall Paul aka Grigori into our world. Everything — from the The Unsound to the Upside Down Face Festival to the kidnapping of Sebastian to the Demon Boards — is being orchestrated by the Order and is centered around that goal. Strand and his wife Coralee, are somehow connected to the Order.

I’ll be doing some notes for Season 2 as well, so check back if you’re interested.

Now streaming: We Are Twisted F***ing Sister

The tsagony and the ecstasy of rock stardom is perfectly depicted in “We Are Twisted F***ing Sister.” From small clubs in New Jersey to sold-out shows in the UK, the documentary is the story of the rise of Twisted Sister from bar band to one of the predominant heavy metal bands of the ’80s.

The documentary relies on interviews with the band members, mostly founding member Jay Jay French and frontman Dee Snider, as well as the fans from the early days.

Behind the makeup and costumes, these guys are hard workers who love their fans. There’s no way you can watch this documentary and think anything else.

Dee is a true original — a beautiful, ugly, glam metal god. He’s also an intelligent guy, and a champion of free speech (if you haven’t already watched it, you have to see the video of him testifying against the PMRC back in the day).

Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, portrait, backstage at Reading Festival, 29th August 1982. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, portrait, backstage at Reading Festival, 29th August 1982. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

The documentary has some great anecdotes from the early days — including one particularly charming story from Suzette Snider, about how she became the band’s costume designer after going to a show only to discover she was wearing the same shirt as Dee.

“We Are Twisted F***ing Sister” nods to the die-hard fans who helped the band get famous — plus there’s a ton of live footage from the early days and the quality is surprisingly good, given its age.

My only criticism of the documentary is that it ends rather abruptly. Once the band “makes it” and finally gets a record deal, the story ends. As the bright pink words on the screen say, the rest is another story (see Behind the Music).

Who can resist a good rockumentary? Why even bother trying to resist? “We Are Twisted F***ing Sister” is available for your viewing pleasure on Netflix right now.

Record keeping in Morgantown at Retro-tique

RUu7jsvcWhenever I go on a trip, I like to check out the local record shop. Why? Because there’s no better place to discover the artistic soul of a place — or to meet cool people. And of course, because sometimes you find great things.

I recently went to Morgantown, West Virginia for a marketing conference at West Virginia University. Before checking into the very cool Chestnut Hotel, I walked down to Retro-tique, a vintage store on Walnut Ave.  The store is about 50% vintage vinyl and 50% vintage toys, clothes, electronics and accessories.

Want a quick litmus test to judge the overall awesome-ness of a record store? Well, if you see The Cramps in the used bin, you can pretty much assume you’ve struck solid gold.There was this too…  And, oh yeah, a huge wall of vintage electronics. Pretty cool, huh?
Is this a pic of me geeking out over the great selection in the store? No, it’s just a King Crimson record. After I perused the vinyl, I introduced myself to Jillian, the co-owner of the shop. She was a sweetheart, and check out her tattoos! Elvira and Dolly Parton! After some joint fan-girling over the Mistress of the Dark and the Queen of Country Music, she invited me to an art show in town — a tribute to Prince. The show ended up being really great, by the way. The second room of the shop was chock-full of vintage clothes, but what really caught my eye was the horror ephemera. First there was this — a super special edition LaserDisc box set of “Hellraiser.” What a stunning package.
 Although I don’t own a LaserDisc player, I  love the gate-fold presentation of the film (which, incidentally, is in my top 5 favorite horror flicks of all time). Look at all those photos and liner notes! Plus a copy of the script. 
Then there was a stack of posters, including this amazing “Phantasm III” poster signed by Angus Scrimm.  And this signed poster featuring art from “Nightbreed.” IMG_3237  Then there was this box of VHS tapes, some of which were sealed.   “Driller Killer.”
“Nail Gun Massacre.”Goblin, live in concert. I think you get the point. I found myself sitting on the floor, mouth agape, looking at this box of fun stuff. 
And, if toys are your thing, Retro-tique had a lot of cool ones — check out the “Ghostbusters” display if you don’t believe me. If you’re in Morgantown, head over. Say hi to Jillian and spend some cash on something cool. I’m a firm believer that we have to support shops like this if we want to have them around in the future.

I can’t share what I actually ended up buying — as my purchases were Father’s Day gifts and that would spoil the fun for my husband. He’s my most devoted reader, after all.

Record keeping: My Mind’s Eye

If you live in Northeast Ohio and haven’t been to My Mind’s Eye record store in Lakewood, I highly recommend you roll on up there, preferably on a Tuesday when you can stop in and have a $3 craft beer at Jammy Buggars, which is just about a block away.

The store is classic — tons of vinyl (used and new), cool T-shirts, and a good selection of CDs. The owner will play used vinyl for you, which is a nice bonus, and you can even pick up tickets for shows at local venues like The Grog Shop.

I recently took a fabulous day off with my partner-in-life-and-crime, Dave, to explore the new stock at the store (lest you think I possess man-hands, those are his in the pics below).  We like to start at opposite ends of the store and call out albums that might be of interest, such as these by Grimes and Green Day.  FYI – we didn’t end up getting either. I just like these pics because they evoke the lovely tactile experience of perusing vinyl.A few more contenders — Metallica’s self titled “Black” album, Slayer’s “South of Heaven,” and Slasher Dave’s “Tomb of Horror.”  IMG_3180I ended up trading out the “Black” album for the most recent Baroness record, “Purple.” I saw Baroness play with Ghost a few years ago and instantly loved their progressive metal vibe. Also, their cover art is amazing — always featuring these wonderful, earthy women covered in flowers, plants, animals, etc. IMG_3213In other recent vinyl news, check out my Mother’s Day gifts below, “Journey Blind” by Magic Circle and “Dangerous Days” by Perturbator. You can read my review of “Journey Blind” here.  I haven’t reviewed “Dangerous Days,” but trust me when I say it kicks ass and you’ll probably want to run out an buy it right now, m’kay. 

2 to try: The Black Tapes and The NoSleep Podcast

female-radio-listener-vintage-radio-01Genre fans are hard pressed to find original horror stories on TV or in the theater. Sure, there are notable exceptions (“The Babadook” and “Penny Dreadful” come to mind), but for the most part, we have to sit through more of the same — bloated, inadequate remakes and ghost story, jump-scare, snooze-fests (the new “Poltergeist” and “Ouija,” for example).

So where should you go for the most original, engaging horror stories? Try your smart phone. I’d recommend “The Black Tapes” and “The NoSleep Podcast.”
TbtpFans of “The X-Files” will rejoice in “The Black Tapes,” a serialized podcast with weekly installments that trace the efforts of Alex Reagan to investigate the unsolved cases of the enigmatic Dr. Strand, a skeptic who has made it his life’s work to disprove the existence of the paranormal. The first season offered a “monster of the week,” while slowly unveiling the larger story arc — all of the tapes are somehow linked and Dr. Strand is not all that he seems. The second season, thus far, focuses more on the larger story arc. We pick up with Alex as she is struggling to swim to the surface of the deep well she has fallen into. In fact, the podcast is on hiatus right now as she attempts to recover from the effects of chronic insomnia brought on by unexplained occurrences.

The hiatus is agonizing for devoted listeners like me, but provides the perfect entry point for those who want to pick it up — you’ll have to go back to the beginning, but you have time to do that between now and May 10 when it returns. It’s free in iTunes and available on the Web here.

Season4Logo_300The NoSleep Podcast, by contrast, is a horror anthology with several stories in each episode, so you don’t need to worry about the fact that it’s on season 7. You can go back and listen to old episodes as you like, but for the most part you can pick it up anywhere.

The NoSleep stories run anywhere between about 10 and 40 minutes, and you can pay to become a subscriber and get even more content. I listen to the free version, which you can download in iTunes or listen to here, and each episode is a little over an hour. The voice talent is excellent, and I highly recommend you check out the site from time to time to see the accompanying artwork.

If you’re looking to jump in, here are a few of my favorite episodes from last season (season 7 just started, FYI):

  • Season 6, Episode 19. The first story, “The Codex,” sucks you right in. This is a graphic and bloody tale, and while NoSleep isn’t always rated R per se, there are some nasty, scary installments. I can’t play it in the car on the way to preschool, but I always look forward to dropping the kiddies off and hearing that intro by creator David Cummings: “This is a horror fiction podcast. It is intended for mature adults, not the faint of heart. Join us at your own risk…”
  • Season 6, Episode 17. Check out “The Pit,” which gives a classic horror concept, the monster under the bed, a modern retelling. Very spooky stuff, this is my single favorite NoSleep story (although it pains me to choose). The actress, Nicolle Doolan, has an incredible voice.
  • Season 6, Episode 13. The Christmas special — evil elves, weirdo kids, mall Santas. Need I say more?

While the technology has changed, the simple act of listening to horror stories, expertly crafted, acted and produced, evokes a bygone era, with families huddled around beautiful, wooden tube radios, listening to serialized dramas like “War of the Worlds.”