Ghosts of Whitewater

The Creepiest Town in Wisconsin

Aside from the story of the Witches Tower, I’ve been slacking on bringing Whitewater legends to Wisconsin Frights. Since I was already telling the strange stories of Wisconsin spiritualists (see: Wisconsin Governor Who Talked to the Dead and Did a Ghost Kill John Sullivan?) it seemed to be a good time to finally share the story of Morris Pratt’s “Spook Temple” and other tales from the town so steeped in legend it’s earned the nickname “Second Salem.”

See it here: Mary Worth, Morris Pratt, and the Legends of Whitewater

I threw together this short video to go with it:


Is Whitewater the creepiest town in Wisconsin? Here’s a quick look at some of the haunted legends of Second Salem. #wisconsin #weirdwisconsin #hauntedwisconsin #haunted #hauntedplaces #paranormal #occult #travel #travelwisconsin #discoverwisconsin #explorewisconsin #creepy #onlyinwisconsin #wisconsinlife #wisconsincheck #uwwhitewater #hauntedtiktok #wisconsinlegend #spiritualism #wisconsinhistory #darktourism #travelguide #seance #witchcraft #secondsalem

♬ Creepy simple horror ambient(1270589) – howlingindicator

The photos in the video were taken from an expedition to Whitewater a few years ago, which I wrote about on Cult of Weird: Monsters, Murderers and Spirit Mediums in Whitewater

WTF Wisconsin

The W in WTF Stands for Wisconsin

We’re only half way through October, and I’ve already filled my Halloween season quota of weirdness over on the front lines of Wisconsin Frights.

Visitors tend to use the contact form there with the idea that they are reaching the actual haunted attraction they have a question for. I try to make it as clear as possible that Wisconsin Frights is not affiliated with the haunted houses featured there, so that hopefully they can get the help they need much sooner than waiting for me to respond. Still, if I catch an email in time, I’ll try to direct people to the right place.

Part of the problem is likely that many of these haunted attractions aren’t digital strategists or designers, leaving their websites and social media profiles devoid of important details such as contact info and location, or they’re just incredibly hard to find. This is the why I’ve started writing helpful marketing guides for haunt owners that I’ll be posting on Wisconsin Frights soon.

Anyway, these types of interactions are common, and I’m always happy to point someone in the right direction if I can.

But here are a few examples of the somewhat less than ordinary issues that have come up so far this month.

Scary Billboards

I received an email from a grandmother scolding me for putting up billboards in Sheboygan with imagery that scared her young grandson.

Wisconsin Frights doesn’t have any billboards.

She was upset about Dominion of Terror billboards. Which makes me wonder if sites like Trip Advisor or Yelp get yelled as much as I do about the business listed in their directories?

By the way, we visited Dominion of Terror on opening night, had a great time, and shot this video for them:


DOMINION OF TERROR haunted house in Sheboygan, WI #wisconsin #hauntedhouse #halloween #hauntedattraction #sheboygan #sheboyganwisconsin #travelwisconsin #thingstodoinwisconsin #travelwi #explorewi #discoverwi #wisco #spookyseason #spookyszn #weirdwisconsin #visitwisconsin #wisconsincheck

♬ original sound – Wisconsin Frights

Grave of Gein’s Unidentified Victims

Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein

Poster art for Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein

The MGM+ docuseries Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein has given a small boost to the interest in Ed Gein this month. It’s been much less than I anticipated, actually, but I’m guessing MGM+ probably just doesn’t have the big pull that another streaming service would. Still, Gein-related search queries rose a bit, and I’ve been resharing Gein content from all of my sites across social media because ad revenue is how I pay my bills.

On one of these posts on Facebook, a Wisconsin Frights follower shared a link in the comments to a video revealing the location of the grave in Plainfield Cemetery where all the unidentifiable remains found in Gein’s house  were buried – things like his human skin suit, the lamp shade, the chair, etc.

That’s an interesting part of the story that’s been missing.

In his book about Gein, Judge Robert H. Gollmar says only, “The grisly relics were duly photographed at the crime lab and then decently disposed of.”

The video was livestreamed by a paranormal investigator who gives the name of a local “author” who showed her where the grave was, and, as she says, gave her exclusivity to show it for the first time ever.

I wrote something up from that angle and shared the video on the site in September. The details that were important to those involved were included right there in the video.

A couple weeks later, I got an email from the woman who originally shared the video link (not to be confused with the paranormal investigator who livestreamed the video), saying my post was misleading and demanding I give proper to credit to the man who found it.

Later that day, the man in question posted a comment on my article, calling it “bullshit.”

Then, the lady who emailed me also posted a comment on the article with the same accusations from her email.

The next morning, another comment came in from this guy, saying that I could use his newly uploaded video now that the previous one I had embedded in the article “don’t work anymore.”

Sure enough, the original video had been deleted, and this guy took a drive to film his own so he could get credit for the grave filled with the body parts of Ed Gein’s victims.

This man is a local Gein enthusiast who, for reasons unknown, is featured prominently in The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein, showing the documentary crew around various Gein-related locations such as Plainfield Cemetery, and the courtroom where he was tried. In the final episode of the series, they even film him chipping away ice in the cemetery to reveal the gravestone of the unidentified remains.

Ed Gein book by Scott Bowser with a photo by Charlie Hintz

Why is my photo on the cover of this book?

The irony in all this is that I first learned about this guy in early 2022 while working on a Cult of Weird post about strange Gein collectibles available online. I discovered his self-published Ed Gein travel guide was for sale on Amazon with an unlicensed use of my photo on the cover – a photo I specifically took for commercial purposes, as I get frequent requests for the use of my work, such as in the latest release by true crime author Harold Schechter.

The only time I ever licensed this particular photo was for a Gein-related episode of Ghost Adventures. To the best of my knowledge, they ultimately didn’t even use it in the final edit. So this photo was only ever published cropped, and with a watermark, for my 2015 post on Cult of Weird.

Plainfield, Wisconsin, the home of Ed Gein

A Secret Gein Victim

Over the years, I’ve talked to numerous people with Gein stories. It’s part of the reason I continue to research and write about the legacy of Gein’s crimes. Everyone has a story, knows a thing that no one else knows, has an unlikely connection, knows someone who ate Gein’s “venison,” saw lights out in the cemetery at night, etc.

Of course, there are Plainfield area residents who really do have legitimate stories. Some want to share them, some threaten your life just because you write about Gein online or visited Plainfield.

Those are interesting facets of Gein’s lasting effect on the world that I like to document.

But equally fascinating are the ones that are dubious at best.

For example, I posed the question in one Cult of Weird article that maybe, somewhere on Gein’s property, the missing hunters suspected to possibly have been victims of Gein, along with their vehicle that seemingly vanished, are buried on his land somewhere, still waiting to be discovered.

Some time after writing that, someone told me they knew exactly where on Gein’s property the vehicle was buried.

I didn’t follow up.

A new piece of this bizarre legacy came in yesterday.

I received this message:

Have respect please to Gein’s victims. He killed my grandmother’s sister. Glorify the criminal and its upsetting to the families.

I began several responses attempting to explain why I write about Gein, and why I generally choose to focus on him and his crimes rather than his victims because I don’t want to continue associating him with the people he hurt.

But I deleted each one, knowing as usual that it wouldn’t solve anything, and would likely be misunderstood no matter how I approached it.

But I would like to tell the stories of how families have coped with this thing in their lives for over 60 years, if they were ever interested in talking about it.

So after staring at a blank screen for a while, I simply wrote, “Who was your grandmother’s sister?” and hit send.

I received a response soon after:

“Her name has never been released to the public. And I do not want her name being forever connected to the sickos who think gein is a fan club. She was a mother to two young children in our family who still have to deal with the loss.”

Gein murdered two women, whose names are known and are public record. The rest of his victims were already dead and buried when he got to them. There has always been speculation that he may murdered others, but their names have also always been public.

So, now there’s a third murder victim who has never been mentioned in the case files, and whose name has never been released to the public?

I’ll leave you to ponder the veracity of that claim for yourself.

The head of Peter Kurten in Murderabilia by Harold Schechter

The Vampire of Dusseldorf

When I read Deranged by Harold Schechter in the 90s, I never would have imagined one day a piece of my work would be in his.

But now, a photo I captured of a serial killer’s severed head during a Wisconsin Dells trip for my daughter’s birthday is officially in print in Schechter’s new book Murderabilia: A History of Crime in 100 Objects.

Peter Kurten's head in the book Murderabilia by Harold Schechter

My photo of Peter Kurten’s head in Murderabilia by Harold Schechter

There’s an additional layer of surreality in the fact that, at the same time, I’ve been watching Schechter discuss Ed Gein in the new MGM+ docuseries Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein.

My contribution to Murderbilia isn’t about Gein, though there is a chapter in the book dedicated to his mother Augusta’s crucifix. It isn’t Gein’s head hanging in the Waterpark Capital of the World – he’s still buried in Plainfield Cemetery among the graves left empty by his plundering.

The head in question belongs to someone considerably more abhorrent than Gein: Serial killer Peter Kurten, the “Vampire of Dusseldorf” who was executed in Cologne, Germany in 1931 for crimes exponentially more horrendous than anything the Butcher of Plainfield got up to.

Kurten was an awful human being, the details of his crimes nauseating, but I find it endlessly fascinating (and undeniably Wisconsin) that his mummified and anatomized head can be found spinning on a hook in the heart of kitchsy Wisconsin Dells, where you can have your food delivered by model train, a Zoltar fortunetelling machine lurks around every corner, there’s an upside down White House, and a giant Trojan Horse with a go-kart track running through its belly.

I mean, this is a place for families and children…and here’s the head of a guy who did horrible things to children and got off on drinking the blood from their wounds.

Despite the fact that the Dells has been home to Peter Kurten’s head since Ripley’s Believe It or Not! opened there in the early 90s (it was their key attraction) I had no idea it was there until 2017. When I was young, we made a couple family trips to the Dells, but we were basically just a hair over living in poverty. So I had walked past Ripley’s a few times, looking longingly through the windows, unable to explore the bizarre wonders inside.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to chat with true crime researcher and filmmaker John Borowski at a Chicago horror convention. He had recently made an appearance on the History Channel series American Ripper, where he weighed in on the theory that serial killer H.H. Holmes, could have escaped his own execution.

I had questions. Namely, how hard did the producers try to sway him into saying something that fit their narrative.

John was great, he was friendly, and it was a thoroughly fascinating conversation.

He also had a new series on Prime called Serial Killer Culture TV, about people who collect murder memorabilia.

He asked if I had watched the series. I admitted that, while I knew of its existence, I hadn’t actually made the effort to watch it yet.

Ask me about all the dumb things I’ve said to unintentionally insult famous people over the years.

Anyway, I felt guilty, because John was a really nice guy and I wanted to support his work. A day or two later, I put the show on. The entire episode was dedicated to the story of this serial killer’s head in Wisconsin Dells that I’d never heard of.

I dragged my kids along on our first pilgrimage to Kurten’s head a few weeks later – one last hurrah to peer into the gaping eye sockets of a decapitated sadist before summer break was over.

I was content for a while after that, but in January of 2020 (just before the COVID pandemic began) we embarked on a weekend getaway into the frozen Wisconsin wastes for my daughter’s 17th birthday.

Temperatures plummeted below zero. Wisconsin Dells was a ghost town. Vibrantly colored water slides contrasted starkly against empty pools and barren waterparks blanketed in snow. But our hotel room had a fireplace and a jacuzzi, so we couldn’t complain.

Our last stop of the weekend – before a harrowing two-hour drive home through a blizzard, in the dark, with little visibility – was to Ripley’s to shoot some new photos and video for various upcoming projects.

The photo in Murderabilia, a similar shot on the cover of my Wisconsin Travel Guide, and this video, were all taken then.

Murderabilia by Harold Schechter

Murderabilia by Harold Schechter

Murderabilia is available now. Grab your copy right here.



Autumn has arrived, and daylight is on a steady decline here in Wisconsin. This is the time of year when some people begin the plunge into seasonal depression, but for me it’s the opposite. Spring and summer are my seasons of sorrow – painful reminders of every missed opportunity and all I’ve lost over the years.

In fall, when the air cools and darkness consumes the world by late afternoon, I feel relief and contentment. Isolation and emptiness stops hurting so much.

Even if I’m suffering from the Halloween burnout I mentioned in my last post, fall adventures with my kids give me life. Expeditions into local legends. The first visit to the nearest Spirit Halloween store the moment it opens. Ghost walks with Nate. Our annual drive out to Holy Hill, with stops at the skeleton display and the orchard down the road for fresh hot cider.

Imagine my kids and I, heathens that we are, wandering around the hallowed ground of a revered Catholic basilica, where people have come for more than a century to be bestowed with miracles from the Virgin Mother.

The ground around the earliest incarnation of the church used to be littered with crutches left behind by those healed by this strange land. There’s still a collection of crutches, eye glasses, and other objects (like a bag full of hair) to be found inside the basilica today.

It’s a bizarre place, to be sure.

Charlie Hintz

That’s me with the “Holy Hill Skeletons,” 2021

Since it’s situated atop one of the highest points in the state, Holy Hill is also one of the best places to see the fall colors.

But we go for the creepy dead Jesus in the lower chapel, the replica Shroud of Turin, the outdoor faucet with the free holy water (I guess the whole water table has been blessed?) and, of course, the legend of the murderous monk who lived on the hill in the mid-1800s and sometimes appears to visitors as a man-shaped mist in the cemetery.

It was also here where, a few years back, my daughter put her hands in a peculiar gray powder coating a pile of yellowed leaves on the ground…which was probably someone’s grandma.

Fond memories.

This year will be different.

In the poignant words of one animated meerkat (I promise I’ll never again use a Disney reference) “our trio’s down to two.”

And I’m just not sure how to move on, how to enjoy any of that, when I feel like half my heart is missing.

Years ago, when my friend Shawn‘s daughter moved with her mom across the country, he was devastated. He wrote a song called “Away from My Heart.”

As a parent, I understood it. But my kids were young, and still right by my side. Now I really get it.

In a difficult year, and a distressing month, the last week has been particularly challenging. After a sleepless night, and a day spent trying desperately to hold it together in the office (failing a few times) I started taking anxiety pills for the first time in over a decade.

At least it takes the edge off the “everything is meaningless” and “how can I possibly go on.”

Here’s what’s been keeping me distracted:

The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein

Ed Gein

Reenactment of Gein robbing graves from Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein

Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein is a new 4-part series on MGM+ that reveals recently discovered audio recordings of Ed Gein‘s interrogation the night he was arrested, with insights from the likes of true crime author Harold Schechter, The Last Podcast on the Left hosts, an expert on necrophilia, and local author Scott Bowser, whose book The Travelers Guide to Ed Gein uses one of my photos on the cover from this Plainfield trip.

I filmed this video during that same trip.

I wrote about some of the details I found interesting: 4 Chilling Details from The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein Part 1

I also made this shirt, which is now for sale in the Wisconsin Frights shop:

Ed Gein t-shirt

Idle Hands

Idle Hands

They didn’t go toward the light because it was too far

I’ve been wanting to revisit this one for a while, since the only time I watched it was shortly after it was initially released on DVD. And I only saw it then because my roommate at the time was obsessed with Jessica Alba.

I don’t remember what my take on it was originally, but upon rewatch, it’s a dumb stoner comedy horror that’s pretty fun.

I’ve been getting caught up on the Chucky tv series, in which a middle-aged Devon Sawa makes a consistent appearance despite the fact that he’s met several gruesome ends already, so it’s great to go back and revisit his work from the 90s.

My favorite role of his will always be perma-trip Sean from SLC Punk.

Dusk by Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe

I love everything Chelsea Wolfe does, but her new single “Dusk” has been an unexpected salve this week. It’s got a gothy, immortal vampire love thing going on in the lyrics, but, more importantly, this song sounds like a flickering bonfire on a cool fall evening – fresh dirt, dead leaves, and burning wood.

This is what dusk sounds like.

Takes me back to a fall night I spent intoxicated at a dilapidated cabin, with a taxidermy squirrel and a campfire.

There were people there, too, I suppose.

But as far as my memory is concerned, it was just me, the squirrel, and the woods.

Anyway, the production of “Dusk” is so textured and interesting, and Chelsea’s voice is melancholy, raw, ethereal.


Speaking of music…

I recently had another sleepless night with a song stuck in my head, so I was awake at 4am, programming drums and writing some odd synth lines. I sent it over to my partner in music crimes, and he quickly returned it with some perfect guttural bass grooves. It’s easily my favorite song we’ve written so far for this project, and I haven’t even put down any guitar yet. I’m particularly excited about this one because I used all new software and virtual instruments. The only pre-existing gear is the 13-year-old midi controller I used to play the parts. So I literally couldn’t have created this song a few months ago.

Also, I think we’ve settled on a name and logo for this project:

Backster Effect

Backster Effect

Logo design for our music project, Backster Effect

My personal goal is to make this project as vastly different from anything I’ve done before as possible, and so far I feel like it’s heading in the right direction. We’ll start sharing bits and pieces of it eventually, but not yet.

Talking to the Dead

Spiritualist graves in Rienzi Cemetery

Graves of the Tallmadge family in Rienzi Cemetery

It can be a challenge to sit down and focus on work when you feel like you’ve just lost your entire purpose and everything is meaningless. But I still have Wisconsin Frights content to create for the spooky season because you have to make hay when the sun is shining…er…when the jack o’ lantern is glowing? I don’t know.

Anyway, Wisconsin’s curious contributions to the history of spiritualism is one of my favorite research topics, so for last week’s newsletter I wrote about the Wisconsin governor who talked to the dead and left behind a whole cemetery full of restless spirits.

In the Works

Grave of Kate Blood in Appleton

Screenshot from my upcoming video about the bleeding gravestone of Kate Blood

Last year, my kids and I hit the road to shoot the first two episodes of what I intended to be many for the Wisconsin Frights Youtube channel. For the first one, we visited another of Wisconsin’s most haunted cemeteries. I managed to get that edited and uploaded pretty quickly.

But the second one – with a historic insane asylum cemetery, a senator’s exorcism, and a bleeding gravestone – was thwarted by kidney stones, car problems, equipment problems, and the fact that I should never ever be on camera ever.

So the footage from the second trip has just been wasting away, half edited, on my hard drive for a year.

My goal is to finish that and get it uploaded by early October.

But if you’ve been following along for any amount of time, you probably know by now that when I set goals, I fail miserably. Just look at how this haunted Wisconsin book project from last year turned out. Spoiler alert: It didn’t.

We’ll see what happens.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
– Robert Frost

Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre in Jefferson, WI

RIP Summer: Tales from the Mental Shed

It’s September, which means Spooky Season is upon us. These days, Halloween is more stress than fun. I’ve already been knee deep in it since at least July, getting Wisconsin Frights ready for the season.

I don’t enjoy Halloween like I used to, since I work with horrific and haunted subject matter nearly every day of the year and my house is filled with real bones, antique Ouija boards, and other oddities.

Most of the fake, overpriced Halloween decor just doesn’t cut it next to the real stuff.

It’s even harder to get into the Halloween spirit when it’s 90-plus degrees outside.

So I’ve been on a steady diet of horror movies and 80s horror soundtracks.

“Dream Warriors” has been stuck in my head for months.

It’s a bit of a reprieve, I suppose, since this time of year it’s usually either The Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” or “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo.

This summer was generally depressing and demoralizing, and I had little time (or ambition) for the adventures we usually embark upon once school lets out. The daily scramble to make ends meet in the current economy means constant work, little sleep, and limitless anxiety.

Wisconsin's Satanic Highway

We did finally get out this past weekend for an excursion down Wisconsin’s newly minted Satanic Highway to the Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre. There, I met Madison-area horror host Dr. Ivan Cryptosis and had the first authentic drive-in experience since my parents took me to the Starlight when I was five to see a Dokken cover band (this was the mid-1980s) and be permanently deranged by Pink Floyd’s film The Wall.

SIDE NOTE: If you’re a fan of American Movie and Milwaukee filmmaker Mark Borchardt, there’s a brief nightmare scene with some hooded cult members in Borchardt’s short film Coven that was filmed in the parking lot of the Starlight before it was torn down.

Highway 18 drive-in theater in Wisconsin

I was inspired to finally make the pilgrimage to Highway 18 (it’s about an hour’s drive) after watching this documentary about the Mahoning Drive-In.

Highway 18 drive-in theater in Jefferson, WI


A night at the drive-in: Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre in Jefferson, WI #wisconsin #travelwi #explorewisconsin #discoverwisconsin #travelwisconsin #drivein #driveinmovie #driveincinema #driveintheater #wisco #wisconsinlife #wisconsincheck #wisconsinliving #travel #explore #goonies #gooniesneverdie #thingstodoinwisconsin

♬ Quirky Suspenseful Indie-Comedy(1115050) – Kenji Ueda

Aside from this trip, I lived almost exclusively at my desk for the majority of the summer. But I did take the opportunity once in a while to waste precious time on pointless projects that help ease the unrelenting hum of creative energy in my brain.

Here’s a few things I’ve been working on:

Ed Gein Tour

There’s an Ed Gein documentary series coming to MGM+ this month, so I’ve been preparing my Gein-related content across various sites for the onslaught of trending search traffic that may bring when it’s released. While digging through archived files for photos from past Plainfield trips, I discovered some smartphone footage I had forgotten I shot during the 2015 visit I documented on Cult of Weird right here.

So I edited those clips together, stabilized the footage, and cut out all the gristle for a short tour of key Gein locations in Plainfield. Watch it above or click here to view it on Youtube.

Wisconsin Frights Halloween Guide

Wisconsin Halloween Events & Activities

Wisconsin Frights has been steadily growing in traffic over the last few years, and even more so this year, but it always explodes during Halloween. So since I’ve decided to offer advertising options on the site for the first time in years, I also decided the mundane Halloween page needed to be more interesting.

See it here: Wisconsin Halloween Guide

3D Skull

I was testing out some of the new 3D features in After Effects beta. It kept crashing, but I managed to render this short experiment:


Mental Shed Studios

I was sitting poolside in California with an old friend in September of 2019. We were discussing the potential of starting a new music project together for the first time since 2006. We passed a few tracks back and forth after that, not amounting to much. I had little time to focus on music, and the situation only worsened when some of my aging hardware started dying.

But we finally started getting together on a semi-weekly basis this summer to hammer out some ideas.

It’s a mental struggle for me because I’ve been exclusively (and unsuccessfully) writing and recording by myself for well over a decade now. The self-doubt and self-loathing that comes from that is crippling, even when I’m working with someone I started playing music with in the 9th grade.

Regardless, we’ve managed to make headway on a few songs I’m pretty stoked about. It’s a little edgy, a little ethereal. Dissonant, beautiful. Organic, synthetic. So far, so good.

For us, music is life. But it seems as though the accessibility and lack of physicality has changed many people’s relationship to music. It’s an indistinct, intangible thing that exists in the background of Youtube and Tiktok videos. The world doesn’t seem to value or care much about music anymore. We talked about what that means for musicians today. What’s the point? What’s the end goal? And is there some way to get people to care again?

Probably not, honestly. But it lead us to this:

Creation Myths Podcast

Creation Myths Podcast

To be clear, I don’t want to do a podcast. I’m not a radio personality. I will be bad at this in all the possible ways.

But it seems like a thing we should do.

Because art is a collective expression of life, and wisdom, and feeling. Artists pour their souls into their work and it means something. It’s cathartic and transformative. And maybe, if someone in the crowd at a bar knows why the artist on stage creates, how they create, and where it comes from, they will care and it will transform them.

We’ve been figuring out the logistics and talking to a couple potential guests. I worked up some graphics and am (slowly) winding up the marketing machine. Follow along so when we start recording episodes, you can see just how much I should not do a podcast: InstagramYoutubeFacebook.

What I’m Listening To

Tales from the Crypt

Since we started considering doing a podcast, I thought I better listen to more podcasts. I’ve gone through phases of listening to Lore, Welcome to Night Vale, and a few horror fiction productions – Creepypasta, NoSleep, stuff like that.

I decided to check out The Last Podcast on the Left. It pops up on my radar from time to time because, like Lore, they cover much of the same stuff I’ve written about on Cult of Weird, and someone usually points that out in the comments.

I also recently discovered The How NOT To Make A Movie podcast, which is a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining look behind the curtain at why Bordello of Blood,  the disappointing follow up to the first Tales from the Crypt film, Demon Knight (a near perfect film), ended up being so terrible.

As told by the people who made it, no less.

Before this podcast, I didn’t know about the movie they originally set out to make called Dead Easy, a Tales From the Crypt take on New Orleans and voodoo.

And now I feel a little emptier inside knowing that Dead Easy never got made.

As far as music goes, I had an awakening this summer.

Ronnie James Dio

Black Sabbath’s Ronnie James Dio era happened over 40 years ago (Heaven and Hell was released the year I was born) but somehow it’s flown under my radar all this time. Now, thanks to this Dio documentary, I’ve discovered the majesty of those recordings. Dio’s voice over Sabbath riffs…holy hell.

For at least a month, “Heaven and Hell” and “Children of the Sea” were the only songs playing in my car.

What I’m Watching

Amityville Horror house

Amityville: An Origin Story

I recently watched Amityville: An Origin Story on MGM Plus. I wasn’t going to. Despite my work researching and writing about the history and legends of “haunted” places, I’m generally pretty skeptical and cynical about the paranormal.

Still, Amityville was the quintessential haunted house story for anyone growing up in the 80s. And ever since watching My Amityville Horror, I’ve been somewhat invested in understanding the perspectives of the Lutz children who lived through the supposed haunting and spent their lives in the shadow of it.

The MGM Plus series is interesting because it provides new insights, including first-person accounts from people close to the Lutz family who’ve never spoken publicly about it before. And, much like the Charles Manson series before it, Amityville does a great job of cultivating atmosphere and context, while brandishing little-known details to tell an old story in a new way.

After watching the series, I wrote this: 16 Weird and WTF Moments from Amityville: An Origin Story

Jason Goes to Hell

Friday the 13th: Jason Goes to Hell

It’s been a long time since I watched Jason Goes to Hell, the most-loathed installment of the Friday the 13th franchise. I was never a fan of parasitic worm Jason, either. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it this time around. It’s not the most thrilling, the plot is not great, and the kills are definitely subpar, but it was all glorious nostalgia for me this time around.

A New Nightmare

Same with a rewatch of A New Nightmare. I used to think the whole meta approach that film took to A Nightmare on Elm Street was dumb. I probably still do. But it didn’t bother me this time, because it just reminded me of watching it with friends as a teen in the 90s – when I last watched it.

Tales from the Crypt

Tales from the Crypt

I started watching the 1972 Tales from the Crypt film over a decade ago, but didn’t make it more than a few minutes in before I got distracted by something else and never found my way back. I put it on recently while working and finally finished it. It’s an anthology film comprised of five segments, each based on an original EC Comics story. They’re not as edgy as HBO’s Tales, and the Cryptkeeper is just a bald guy in a robe, but they still have some bite.

With that said, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Tales from the Crypt episodes eventually find their way to streaming. I’m not ambitious enough to put in the DVDs anymore, but the series would be on 24/7 if I just had to click a few buttons.

Come on, HBO. Let’s make it happen.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t bought a new book in a while. I like to have physical copies of books I can hold and page through, but I’m entirely out of space for them. As it is, I have bins full of books in the basement that I don’t have shelf space for.

And then I caught a mention of the dread-inducing “Funhole” at the heart of the 1991 horror novel The Cipher by Kathe Koja.

The Cipher by Kathe Koja

And I needed to read it.

Original paperback copies of The Cipher are a little pricey, however, so I broke down and bought my first Kindle book.

I’m still working on it, but rest assured that yes, the Funhole is quite dreadful.

Speaking of books…


Murderabilia by Harold Schechter

True crime author Harold Schechter’s new book Murderabilia: A History of Crime in 100 Objects comes out later this month and unless they’ve changed it (the layout has definitely changed since I posted the screenshot in this post) my photo of German serial Peter Kurten’s head hanging in a dark corner of Wisconsin Dells will be included.

As a Schecter fan and a collector of macabre objects, I’m particularly looking forward to this one.

It makes the summer’s dirge all the sweeter.

Wisconsin Travel Guide

Wisconsin Travel Guide to the Dark Side

It seems impossible to finish a personal project these days, which makes today a unique achievement: The release of the Wisconsin Travel Guide to the Dark Side that I’ve been working on for Wisconsin Frights off and on since late last year.

Inside this free guide is 50-plus pages of the weird Wisconsin legends, haunted places, quirky destinations, and dark history that I’ve been researching, writing about, and photographing most of my life.

This first edition includes a sampling of Wisconsin’s most bizarre offerings, such as:

  • The dark side of Wisconsin Dells
  • An abandoned house said to be “cursed with death”
  • A stroll through Ed Gein country
  • The strange case of the Mayville crop circles
  • Wisconsin UFO hotspots

Download the guide now >

Wisconsin Travel Guide

On the cover: The severed head of German serial killer Peter Kurten that I photographed in Wisconsin Dells during this trip when I shot this video.

Fun Fact

Another photo I snapped of Peter Kurten’s head from that same day is being featured in the upcoming book Murderabilia by Harold Schechter, the true crime author whose book about Ed Gein I read a long time ago as a teenager in the 90s. You can see it in the preview images on Amazon:

The head of Peter Kurten featured in a new book by Harold Schechter

Anyway, download the Wisconsin travel guide.

Benson's Hideaway UFO Daze

UFOs in the Kettle Moraine

Wisconsin is home to some of the strangest UFO encounters in the country, if not the world. And it’s not always a Christmas light show, such as the case that made international headlines this past December. (Watch my video about that right here.)

In Eagle River, aliens served pancakes right out of their flying saucer. In Mayville, a retiree drank his morning coffee as he watched crop circles appear in the field across the road. A UFO landed on the road in Mellen. In Elmwood, a police officer was “zapped” by a blast of light from a UFO while on patrol one night, and died of a mysterious illness months later. When we were young, my cousins from rural Wisconsin told me about a farmer they knew who had seen a flying saucer that roared and rumbled like a freight train as it cruised over the countryside. A couple years before she passed, my grandmother even told me she had witnessed several UFOs in the sky over Lake Michigan throughout her lifetime living in Milwaukee.

My personal favorite Wisconsin UFO hotspot, however, is the little town of Dundee in the heart of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, where some locals swear a massive hill (known as Dundee Mountain) that was formed by glacial deposits many millennia ago is the source of the strange phenomena that’s been happening in the area for decades, if not longer.

“Something’s under there,” Bill Benson was known to say. And up until recently, you could hear all about it at Bill’s UFO-themed bar on the shore of Long Lake, where people gathered annually for over 30 years to flaunt their elaborate tinfoil hat designs and watch the mysterious lights in the sky.

I’ve lived near Dundee my whole life. Rumors about Bill’s UFO Daze festival, where flying saucers were said to make an appearance every year, have always just been part of daily life. The strangeness of it – this small town in the Wisconsin woods where crop circles appeared in the lake reeds and extraterrestrials dropped by to catch Packers games – didn’t even occur to me until much later.

Local folklore, however dubious the stories may sometimes seem, are woven into the fabric of a place and become its story. People like Bill Benson, who kept an alien in a jar and a binder of UFO photos behind the bar, are legends in their own right.

When I finally had the opportunity to meet Bill Benson in 2021 (and, sadly, snap the photo that would be used in his obituary later that year) he told me about encounters locals have had over the years, as well as a few of his own. And, because I had to know, he told me what he believed was under Dundee Mountain.

I previously created a Long Lake travel poster (and sent one off to Benson’s, where it was tacked to the wall last time I was there), but for my first serious foray into 3D, I wanted to bring the scene to life as I often imagined it, with a UFO flying in low over the lake toward the bar.

It’s a work in progress, but here’s a look at it so far:

Benson's Hideaway 3D UFO wireframe

Benson's Hideaway

UFO over Long Lake

Benson's UFO Daze 3D scene

Benson's UFO Daze 3D scene

Benson's Hideaway UFO Daze

Benson's Hideaway UFO Daze

Benson's Hideaway UFO Daze

Wisconsin UFO bar

And here’s a look at it in motion:

Check out some of my other Wisconsin UFO designs in the Wisconsin Frights shop.

Want to see the latest nonsense I’m working on right in your email? I might start using Substack, so be sure to subscribe:

Bored Panda interview about Cult of Weird

UFOs, Wisconsin, & The Occult: My Bored Panda Interview

I should have mentioned this in my post-Halloween review, but it completely slipped my mind until now. Back in October, I answered some questions for a post on Bored Panda about Cult of Weird. Oddly, the post is focused on the Cult of Weird Twitter account where I rarely share unique content. I barely even used the account for years, and now I mostly just retweet stuff to support researchers and creators doing interesting work.

So really, this Bored Panda feature is about other people’s posts.

I guess it’s just nice to be recognized for…recognizing others…?

Anyway, it was a nice little boost in followers right before Elon Musk took over and turned Twitter into a dumpster fire. Also, when I get interview requests, it’s usually just to talk about Ed Gein. This time I got to share some of my personal perspectives on my work, for better or worse.

Cult of Weird featured on Bored Panda

I talk a bit about growing up in the heart of weird Wisconsin, the occult in the Kettle Moraine, Cthulhu power zones, my grandmother’s UFO stories, and what I think about Bigfoot throwing rocks at people in the woods.

Read the interview on Bored Panda right here.

NOTE: I had just watched this video about the evidence, however unexplainable, for the existence of life after death, so I was in a slightly less skeptical mood about the paranormal when I answered the questions.

Halloween review

The Late Post-Halloween Review

The general mood of spooky season for me this year was malaise and ennui. Each year it gets increasingly more difficult to get into the Halloween spirit when I spend the entire year knee deep in ghost stories and monster encounters while surrounded by real skulls and creepy antiques here in Mental Shed HQ.

Still, it wasn’t a total loss.

After years of trying to convince others to host/narrate Youtube content for Cult of Weird and Wisconsin Frights, I decided the only way to get it done was to ruin the mediocre media empire I’ve built over the last 20+ years by becoming the voice and face of my own brands.

One of my favorite pastimes is luring unsuspecting passengers into my car and taking them on strange trips into the wild weird yonder of Wisconsin. I’m surrounded by boundless Wisconsin weirdness, so why not start creating some travel videos in which I virtually whisk my unwitting audience away into the dark corners of history and legend?

I planned to kick off Halloween with a drive into Houdini country (Appleton, Wisconsin, where Erik Weisz lived—and nearly died—as a child) to visit a notorious bleeding grave and other curious historical landmarks. However, I ended up celebrating the beginning of fall in a more traditionally horrific sort of way: Kidney stones.

After a pain-filled, sleepless week of wishing for a quick death, I was feeling a bit better and opted to shoot something closer to home. So I grabbed my kids and took an impromptu drive to one of my favorite local haunts: Glenbeulah Cemetery.

Most haunted place in Wisconsin

We did eventually film the Appleton trip, which included stops at a historic asylum cemetery and the site of a senator’s exorcism. But the brakes went out on my car—while my daughter was driving—and I had to drive two hours home on the dark back roads with no brakes.

So I had the brakes fixed just so I could drive it to a dealership and trade it in out of spite.

When we returned to Appleton later for the mall, I had no idea until afterwards when I was researching Appleton content on Tiktok that we were in the presence of a notorious Bath & Body Works which has become a pilgrimage site for Wisconsinites.

Bring Me the Horizon live

Two weeks later we took a trip to Chicago to see Bring Me the Horizon (with openers Grandson—my son’s favorite—Knocked Loose, and Siiickbrain) and spent the next day being tourists in the Windy City. We visited the Bean, and then my daughter asked if we could go find the Gallagher house from the TV series Shameless. That took us into a curious neighborhood of fascinating architecture and an abandoned, overgrown overpass now being used for farming.

Chicago neighborhood near the Gallagher House from Shameless

Neighborhood near the Gallagher House full of Chicago greystones

The Bean in Chicago

The Bean

Under the Bean

The view directly under the bean, which purportedly makes a lot of people sick

On the way home, we stopped in Kenosha to find the grave of the last man executed in Wisconsin.

The grave of John McCaffary, last man executed in Wisconsin

We also made it out to another nearby location known as Holy Hill, a basilica on a hill overlooking the mysterious Kettle Moraine where miracles have been said to take place since the mid-1850s when a monk sought refuge there after murdering his former lover in a jealous rage.

Miracles at Holy Hill

Visitors leave behind crutches, eyeglasses, and…other things…as a testament to the healing miracles at Holy Hill

It’s also the home of an exact replica of the Shroud of Turin, for some reason.

On the way home home we stopped nearby to visit the annual Holy Hill Skeletons display:

October Accomplishments

What I read

I haven’t had much time to read for pleasure lately, it’s usually just research. BUT I did pick up the new Miss Peregrine book by Ransom Riggs. I spent years reading and re-reading those books to my kids, but now that they’re too old for bedtime stories, I still can’t resist.

I also enjoyed the new Mrs. Friedly story by Cullen Bunn. I’ve been a fan of his work ever since I discovered Countless Haints—now Harrow County—by chance on his website a few years back (while researching haint blue folklore for Cult of Weird) and Mrs. Friedly has become a Halloween staple for my son and I.

Screenwriter Ian A. Stuart, who wrote The Pit (filmed in Wisconsin) said, “The traditional structure of a horror story isn’t the novel, it’s the short story that begins very realistically, introduces an element of the fantastic, and then has to wrap up relatively quickly. But the wrap-up is in the last phrase, the last sentence, even the last word, where the story really gives you a jolt.”

Cullen’s Mrs. Friedly stories are particularly great at that, but the jolt in this year’s story was so simple and expertly crafted that the true horror of it’s final moments sneak up and give you that jolt a beat or two after you’ve read the last line.

What I watched

Halloween Ends

Halloween Ends

This film didn’t remotely make sense as a sequel to the previous installment. Everything was off. But I didn’t hate it. Felt like a genuine 80s slasher sequel that goes off the rails into WTF territory. Oh, and that opening scene with the kid and the babysitter…holy shit.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

My Best Friend's Exorcism

Grady Hendrix popped up on my radar with the release of Paperbacks From Hell, and he has since become my favorite author of novels I haven’t even read yet. I include his latest releases on the Fall Reading List each year. So I was excited for the Amazon adaptation of My Best Friend’s Exorcism and it did not disappoint. As someone who was traumatized by Satanic panic as a child (and is still being bombarded almost daily with my mother’s QAnon obsession in recent years) I feel a certain catharsis in the way Hendrix handles the subject matter.

The Midnight Club

The Midnight Club

I love Mike Flanagan’s work (Midnight Mass, holy hell) but I went into this expecting some YA Nickelodeon horror. It was NOT that. Turns out it was an incredible series filled with horror, despair and mystery. At first, I was put off that so much focus was placed on the kids’ fictional stories. One of my biggest pet peeves is watching things that aren’t really happening in the world of the story, like dream sequences, or all those episodes of Star Trek when everything is wrapped up neatly and none of it actually happened or had consequence by the time the credits roll. Real stakes or GTFO. That’s just bad storytelling.

As The Midnight Club unfolded, however, those stories became increasingly more important, as they were telling us so much about what the kids had gone through and what they were feeling in the face of their irreversible death sentences. Brilliant.

Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinet of Curiosities

I love short horror stories. They have the freedom to be weird and experimental, and explore absurd ideas in ways that the novel cannot. That love extends to horror anthologies, as it’s essentially the same format but on film. Often, a story is better off short, as drawing it out takes away the bite. That’s probably why the second season of American Horror Stories is surprisingly watchable compared to most of what came before it.

Naturally, a Guillermo Del Toro-produced anthology series is bound to be great.

What really makes this series stand out to me is that each episode felt literary in that the stories retained that experimental absurdity to some extent. Even the weakest episodes were great for that. No complaints here. With one minor exception, I suppose, in that I was expecting a particular gut punch twist at the end of the final episode, The Murmuring, which admittedly would have ruined the unexpectedly tender, heartfelt ending…but would have been a glorious moment of grim horror.

I have a file where I’ve been jotting down bits of fiction ideas for the last 10 years, making notes, slowly fleshing stories out. I have an entry for murmuration, because I felt an inherent mystery and horror in it, but hadn’t figured out exactly what it was yet. Now I know.

Ironically, the episodes of Cabinet of Curiosities based on works by H.P. Lovecraft felt the least Lovecraftian of all the episodes.

The Munsters

The Munsters film by Rob Zombie

It’s hard to find things to say about this one. I liked the bad makeup and rubber masks. The cinematography and color grading are good, I guess, if you can look past the obnoxious digital noise applied over the top of every scene to give it a faux film look. Didn’t look great on my 65-inch 4K TV.

Wisconsin cemetery covered in snow in early October

Snow in early October

In other news, I also managed to get in approximately one hour of video games in October, which consisted of fumbling through Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Bioshock 2 because it’s been so long since I had time to play them. By the time I remembered the controls and what was happening in the plot, I was bored and wandered off to do other things.

I always feel a particular emptiness when Halloween is over, even when I wasn’t really feeling it that season, but then, toward the end of November, the doom and gloom of Wisconsin winter begins to settle in and my head fills with gothic horror. Even when I was young, scrawling (probably terrible) stories across innumerable piles of notebooks, I was always consumed with the urge to write gloomy gothic horror tales of rotting castles and cursed tomes around Thanksgiving when the land turns brown and dead.

Most haunted place in Wisconsin

VIDEO: Most Haunted Place in Wisconsin

My favorite pastime is luring unwitting passengers into my car and taking them on drives into the strange history and bizarre legends of the weird Wisconsin countryside. Unfortunately, I only have a limited number of seats, and trunk space is tight. So instead, I’ve decided to take you with me virtually for a new Wisconsin Frights Youtube series.

When I initially launched Wisconsin Frights years ago, I asked followers what they believed the most haunted place in Wisconsin was. This can be a great way to learn about new places and hear about people’s personal experiences, but if I’m being honest, this question was mostly to stir up some social media engagement. I was expecting to hear a lot about the Summerwind Mansion, Wisconsin’s most notorious haunted house, or the mausoleum in Dartford Cemetery where visitors claim to get pushed by ghosts. Both are well known haunted locations, mostly due to their exposure on paranormal TV shows.

Unexpectedly, many of the responses to my question cited a place I wasn’t even aware of at the time: A small, secluded cemetery in the village of Glenbeulah.

Local legends and oral histories are the true lingering spirits of places like this, and visiting them may be the closest we actually get to experiencing ghosts of the past. So, since Glenbeulah was less than a hour drive, I soon found myself walking among the crumbling gravestones of early Wisconsin pioneers in Walnut Grove Cemetery.

Most notable was the grave of Grace Baumann, an infant who passed away at just five days old in 1943. Visitors had been leaving offerings of toys and teddy bears at her grave. Some had clearly been there for years, and were slowly moldering into the ground.

I have returned to Glenbeulah Cemetery frequently since that first trip, usually at least once a year to snap some photos and see how horrific the toys at Grace’s grave have become in my absence (they never seem to disappoint, by the way). When I finally decided to embark on the perilous journey of creating Wisconsin Frights content for Youtube, this seemed like the obvious first destination – somewhere that many consider to be the most haunted place in Wisconsin.

Watch that video on Youtube right here.

Most haunted place in Wisconsin

Be sure to WATCH, LIKE and SUBSCRIBE for more. Help me pay for gas and get some better gear!

There are a lot of places and people whose stories I hope to have the opportunity to tell. And I’m already editing the next trip, which involves an INSANE ASYLUM, a SENATOR’S EXORCISM, and a BLEEDING GRAVESTONE.

If you know of a place I should check out, tell me about it!