Paranormal Puzzle Pieces w/ Timothy Renner


A sea of competition exists for the attention of those interested in the strange, paranormal and unexplained. There's podcasts, radio shows, blogs and websites galore. I myself am reaching max capacity to follow much more than I try to at this point. One new show I am incredibly satisfied with taken a chance on is called Strange Familiars. It popped up a few months back and I got hooked from the very first episode. 

This podcast, created by author and artist Timothy Renner, does everything right. Not only are the story lines intriguing and not overplayed, but the attention to production detail is phenomenal. A longtime musician, Renner brings his recording and mixing skills to bare in a big way. With original folk music, on-site recordings and retro-style news reports from paranormal news past, every show has a killer presentation. 

Drawing largely from the deep well of Pennsylvania folklore (vintage and modern), Renner digs deep into his research to present stories as good as any mega-mystery program. And he's pulling it off nearly on his own solitary efforts. 

After being introduced to not only his podcast but his band Stone Breath, his personal artwork and paranormal books, I come away massively impressed. He has really found a way to turn his interest in high strangeness into an immersive, self-contained multimedia world. I can't say enough positive things about his work as a whole so just follow through with the links in this interview and discover it for yourself. I can only hope that his intense efforts will soon get the recognition they deserves. 

NOW GET FAMILIAR WITH THE STRANGE WORLDS OF TIMOTHY RENNER...  


Why is folklore and urban legend vital and important for our culture? What first instilled your feelings about them?
In the past, folklore went hand and hand with mythology - and I think we’ve lost a kind of earth-based mythology. Our new myths might be science fiction - our new heroes may be the super powered characters in the latest Hollywood blockbuster - but we are losing touch with nature and with places of power and history. Many people don’t feel the impact of the seasons or of the landscape that surrounds them unless it’s some kind of major weather event or disaster. I think these folktales and legends connect us to the landscape - which is something we are forgetting in so many other ways. 
By the way, I don’t have a problem with science fiction or superheroes - there is plenty of room for that stuff too. 
 I didn’t know it as folklore, but I loved it all my life. They were just ghost stories, local legends, and the like when I was a kid, but I was fairly obsessed with them. I wanted to visit every haunted house and go to every creepy abandoned place. 
As I got older I realized traditional folk songs are very much the same - they tell these wonderful stories passed down from generation to generation and often change to fit the places they are sung. I see folk tales and folk song as very closely related.
Timothy Renner

From listening to the show, it sounds like Bigfoot is your true love. When did your passion for the legend begin?
“True love” made me laugh. That’s great. My kids often joke that bigfoot is my religion.

From the moment I saw the Patterson-Gimlin film on “In Search Of…” in the 1970s, I was hooked. Something about bigfoot has deeply interested me from that point. 
I read every book I could find (which wasn’t many back then) and then… I guess I thought I grew out of it? I didn’t really follow it much from the time I was in high school until, really, somewhat recently. I would look at information on the web here and there, but it wasn’t a regular part of my life. When I was writing Beyond the Seventh Gate and I turned up so many local bigfoot sightings that I started to get a lot more interested in the phenomenon. That’s when I really jumped in with both feet. 
Can you describe any personal sightings or experiences with the paranormal that you’ve had?
I have realized when I start to describe this stuff, I sound crazy. That being said, I think CRAZY is somehow part of the equation. I am not romanticizing mental illness. My thoughts on this are probably too long for an interview and more suited to a long article or a book - but I think there are multiple reasons for this and I’ll try to be brief. 
For one, we often talk about liminal states opening folks to strange experiences. Some of my experiences have been during or on the heels of the use of psychedelics - these substances alter the mind - I think old school psychologists would say those who use them are inducing a state of psychosis. So “crazy” is a kind of liminal place.
Witches, shamans, holy men - they were often “touched” as they said. “Crazy.” But perhaps even more than this is THE OTHER - whatever the agencies are that seem to be behind paranormal activity - really benefits from witnesses being seen as “crazy”. It really keeps the water muddied. It keeps witnesses on the fringe.   
So, all of that being said back to the question and knowing this sounds crazy: I have seen UFOs. I have had “alien abduction” type experiences. I use that term as a shorthand - I neither believe the entities are space aliens nor do I believe I ever left my bed. I have seen ghosts. I have seen SOMETHING very large, very fast, and very quiet in the woods which I could not identify. I have run into some odd things in the woods - if they were left by humans, they are very strange people. 
 By the way, I don’t think I am special. I think people have strange experiences all the time and don’t see it or realize it for whatever reason. I think if people put themselves in places known for strange activity on a regular basis - or draw the strangeness to themselves through various means - and start to note little things: synchronicity is the first thing I would recommended taking notice of, then any other little things no matter how small they may seem - I think almost anyone will start to experience strange things. 
Of course, if you take a hard skeptic like my wife - she literally had an encounter with a known paranormal entity that many other people have talked about - and she just dismissed it as nothing but a hypnopompic illusion. I’ll never convince her it was anything more. To me, there are no coincidences, only synchronicities. To my wife, there are no synchronicities, only coincidences. This is why most skeptics will never experience anything paranormal. The new age types will say they are not “open to it” - but it is really that they refuse to see it. I don’t think THE OTHER cares if you are “open” to it or not. 
When and why did you decide to launch the Strange Familiars podcast?
I simply wanted to do an audio documentary version of my book, Beyond the Seventh Gate. I even approached a few other podcasts about doing it on one their shows, but they either never responded or blew me off. Seriah finally encouraged me to just do it myself. He said he would host it and help me along the way.  
 
So, I thought: well, I might as well do an ongoing podcast then. Which was a little naive in retrospect. It’s a LOT more work than I thought it would be!
Your show really goes above and beyond a couple people pushing record and blabbing into a microphone around a table. Can you talk about how your vision for a program has been influenced perhaps by classic radio plays and other high-quality audio dramas?
I said from the beginning: I don’t want to do the “two guys talking” format. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with that - I just think other people do it better than I could. I don’t think I could bring much new to that format. That said, some of our episodes come down to two guys talking - there’s no avoiding that - but I try to pepper it with on-site recordings, music, old articles, and the like. The starting point for me was the first season of the Serial podcast. I thought it was really compelling storytelling and I thought I would like to try to do a paranormal Serial. After that it came down to how do I do this and what do I have at hand? I had a long history of music in the can (umpteen albums solo and with my band), I had recording equipment, and I know how to mix and master things so then it was a matter of just figuring out how to put it all together. 
Things like the radio tuning and static for the old articles - I just wanted to set them apart sonically and make them “feel” old to the listener. I try not to do a ton of the radio play type stuff because what we are talking about, generally, is real stuff - so you need a balance. 
For instance, I might have eerie music fade into a witness interview, but I don’t play scary music in the background while they are talking - not counting the very beginning of the show where I often use samples of the interviews in some kind of opening clip. 
In general, I try to make something I would want to listen to - something with a variety of voices and sonic textures - and something which covers topics I find interesting.
You are a reoccurring guest on another podcast, Where Did the Road Go? How did you get involved with them?
I discovered podcasts when I was going through a particularly bad time in my personal life and I could not sleep. Where Did the Road Go? quickly became my favorite as Seriah is an excellent interviewer and seemed to just get great guests show after show. 
When Beyond the Seventh Gate was published I did a lot of podcasts and radio shows. Seriah was one of the few hosts who actually read the book before interviewing me - which was really refreshing. After our interview we stayed in touch because he wanted me to do some art for WDTRG? and his other radio show, Last Exit for the Lost. 
As we would talk about this sometimes I would tell Seriah about some weird experience I had or another and he eventually brought me back on just to talk about some of my experiences. From there I weaseled my way into becoming a regular guest. His panel of regulars runs deep with knowledge and I’m a bit out of my league sometimes, but I’m in great company. 
That show delves a lot into firsthand accounts of occult and magic practice. Is that something that is a part of your life as well?
Yes. 
Do you have a personal metaphysics that explains the world to you, specifically one that accounts for all the paranormal shit that fills our universe?
I have a personal mythology. I think all my life I’ve been working on this - and it grows and changes with time. It’s not science, it’s belief, so I’m not sure how well it explains the paranormal. 
 There is an album Stone Breath did called Children of Hum. In the liner notes, describing how we came to name the album that, I tell this story: There is but one person who has shared most - if not all - of my personal spiritual beliefs and that is my long-time band mate and best friend, Prydwyn. When asked by his wife how we could marry such disparate elements as animism and Marian Catholicism, Prydwyn answered, off the cuff, “Some things hum. Some things do not hum. I follow those things which hum.” This perfectly sums up my path. 
 As to the paranormal. It’s an odd thing to dwell on. There is a very real state of depression many people who are deeply interested in the paranormal go through when they realize they will never “solve” this problem. Answers are not forthcoming. I think people either accept this and deal with it - or they just say everything paranormal is a “demon”, pretend they have solved the problem, and put their blinders back on. 
We don’t get to “solve” it. We can participate in the puzzle - and a lucky few people may get to lay in a new piece of the puzzle - but we will never solve it. It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle of an ever-changing fractal image in five dimensions while blindfolded. Good luck.
What is your general position on the nature of cryptid creatures – are they flesh and blood, inter-dimensional or something else?
Flesh and blood AND something else - possibly inter-dimensional, but that kind of speculation is really just science fiction until we know for sure. 
 Taking bigfoot creatures as an example: Something very real is leaving hair, scat, and footprints behind. It is eating food, hitting the sides of peoples’ houses, killing their pets, screaming in the night, and making weird tree structures in the woods. These creatures can bleed - though there are several reports of them being shot and nothing happening, there are also reports of them bleeding from gunshots or other injuries. So, yes, they are flesh and blood. They leave a very real impact on the earth. 

But are they the same as bears or mountain gorillas or any other wholly natural animal? I don’t think so. I just don’t believe an 8-foot tall ape-man with a breeding population is able to perfectly hide in the North American wilderness despite all of our searching. Natural animals don’t avoid trail cams. They don’t usually give people PTSD after encountering them. They don’t leave a trail of footprints that just stop in the middle of a field. The list of weirdness goes on and on. 
“Inter-dimensional” is a handy explanation, and it MAY be correct, but who can say? Until we know for sure, “inter-dimensional” really isn’t a better answer than “demon”. I can only say these things are not like us and they are not like other natural animals. 
Artwork by Timothy Renner

Are Bigfoots ever seen in a pack or as a family? All the stories I hear are usually loner sightings. Is there any discussion about female or child Bigfoots?
The subject of the Patterson-Gimlin film seems to be female. 
 Many people claim to have seen packs or tribes of the creatures. Others have claimed to see little ones, potentially adolescents or children. I don’t know. I think we are projecting a lot of “human” onto them sometimes, but I can not say for sure. 
I do believe they rarely travel alone. If you see one, there are more you are not seeing. I base this, as I base all of my bigfoot knowledge, on witness accounts. They are the best source of information we have.
Besides the research being about supposedly different entities, how else does cryptozoology differ from ufology? How are they interrelated?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer that fully - but from where I stand it seems like there are hardcore camps in both fields who want nothing to do with the other. “I study UFOs but those bigfoot people are CRAZY” - and vice versa. 
There are, however, so many commonalities between the fields and the experiences, I think anyone who is not at least open to a holistic approach to the paranormal is potentially missing a piece of the puzzle.  
I love how the show uses archival newspaper paranormal reports of sightings and encounters. How hard is it to dig out all those old media artifacts?
It’s not easy and it’s very time consuming, but I REALLY like doing research. If I didn’t love doing it, it would be a nightmare. I like digging through old stuff like that though.
Your book Beyond the Seventh Gate preceded the podcast and actually served as the theme for our initial run of episodes. Can you give the readers a short synopsis on the legends surrounding Toad Road, Hex Hollow and the rest?
There is a local legend (in York County, PA - where I live) about the supposed Seven Gates of Hell. When I first moved here this legend was associated with Rehmeyer’s Hollow (aka Hex Hollow) and a cemetery in York City. In both cases these were not supposed to be physical gates but sort of symbolic gates that you passed through by walking or driving a specific route in the hollow or the cemetery.  
Sometime during the internet age, a crazy story popped up about the Seven Gates being located on Toad Road - another place of local legend - and this outrageous story about a burning insane asylum and/or a mad doctor who kept mental patients in his home started being told. This story is a myth of the internet age, but the books, Weird USA and Weird Pennsylvania published it and so it became THE story of Toad Road and the Seven Gates of Hell in many peoples’ minds.
 

Is the black gouge down this tree in Hex Hollow a lightning strike? 
It is complete invention. There was never an insane asylum on Toad Road or anywhere else in York County for that matter - and there is but one gate on Toad Road - and it doesn’t lead to Hell. Plenty of weird stuff happens on Toad Road but it has nothing to do with insane asylums or gates to Hell.
Hex Hollow is a place where a real murder happened which was tied to a local practice known as powwow - which some people believe is witchcraft. I have tracked down stories of strange things happening there long before the murder, however, so I don’t believe that murder is the cause of all the weirdness reported in Hex Hollow. It’s just another symptom.
Instead of bolstering all of the urban legends about that story, you actually dispel what you consider to be false myths. Youre obviously not trying to sensationalize or milk the story for shock. Can you share what you helped to clear up?
I wrote the Hex Hollow story in the Weird USA/PA books. They also asked me to take photos for that story AND the Toad Road story. Knowing there was a lot of nonsense about insane asylums and the like, I begged them to let me read the Toad Road story before it was published. They did not. Instead they published the nonsense insane asylum story with my photographs. I made up my mind at that point that I would someday find the real story and write SOMETHING to clear it all up. I didn’t know it would turn into a book.  
 deer skull impaled on a tree along Toad Road.
In the midst of all of this “insane asylum” nonsense a real person, a local doctor who happened to live near Toad Road - started to be named as the “mad doctor” in some other local ghost story books - which I thought was just horrible. The man was a veteran of both world wars and did charity work for the poor and aged around York. His second wife was still alive at the time I wrote Beyond the Seventh Gate. I hope she never heard a word about all of this - but if I did one good thing in writing that book, I hope I cleared his name. 
The oldest bit of legend I could find about the place was just a tidbit my wife remembered from when she went to day camp near Toad Road - and that was a simple but eerie saying: Don’t look behind you on Toad Road. That ended up being incredibly important though because it tied Toad Road in with a much older Pennsylvania legend and confirmed with what a lot of other witnesses report in the area.
You recently released a book, Bigfoot in Pennsylvania. Can you comment on your research process and how you decided to structure all the content you amassed?
As I was writing my first book I found several bigfoot accounts in old newspapers. Of course, they didn’t call them bigfoot but when people are describing giant ape-men that behave exactly like modern witnesses report bigfoot creatures behaving, it doesn’t matter what name you give them. I loved reading these old accounts so I thought I would collect a bunch in a book. I figured I would have one book for the entire country. Shortly after I started I realized I would have enough to fill a book just on PA. Since I live here, I started with PA - but I plan on doing other areas. I don’t think I’ll have enough to fill a book for every state, but there are A LOT of these old reports. I’ll be doing these books for a long time. 

 
The research process is really all about figuring out what people called these things before bigfoot. “Wild men” is most popular, but you get tons of other regional names and variants. After that, it’s just about putting in the time - finding various newspaper archives and digging in.
What is it about Pennsylvania that accounts for so much paranormal activity?
I used to say it would be the same in any other state, you just have to look for the weird… and I still think that is at least partially true - but we do seem to have a LOT of strange activity in PA. We have a lot of creeks and rivers - for whatever reason these seem to be important to paranormal activity. Some people speculate iron and/or quartz might play a role in the paranormal - we also have plenty of those minerals. People tend to think of PA as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - but there is a WHOLE LOT of wilderness in between and even around those cities, so if cryptid creatures want/need isolation or large tracts of land in which to hide/live/etc, we have plenty here. 
 If you go back to the First Nations people that were here before the Europeans - they talked about all of the same things we talk about now. They just used different names.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I don’t really know.
The amazing music of your band Stone Breath plays a key role in shaping the vibe of the show. Can you comment a bit about your musical background and how it ties into the themes of the podcast?
When I realized that traditional folk music was talking about many similar themes and stories as folk tales, I think that was it for me. I was all in. I taught myself how to play guitar and then found a local man who showed me how to play clawhammer banjo. I learned how to write songs by listening to traditional songs. 
 There was a 1970s band called Stone Angel from the UK - and, besides traditional songs, they wrote original songs about local legends. I thought this was a wonderful way to create original music but still link it to folk tradition. I’ve done this with Stone Breath from the beginning - it’s not all we’ve done, but it’s always been a part of it. 
Even up to the last album, CRYPTIDS, which is all songs based on legends and cryptid creatures. Our forthcoming album, Witch Tree Prophets, takes its theme from a legend from my childhood home - The Witch Tree - which haunted my entire childhood in the most wonderful of ways. 
 
 
And yes, the name Stone Breath is a partial nod/tribute to Stone Angel - but it was mostly about animism. I also liked the light/heavy imagery a lot of bands from the 60s and 70s used: Iron Butterfly, Led Zeppelin, etc. 
 When I started Strange Familiars, like I said, I just looked around and thought ‘what do I have on hand.’ Using music I had already recorded was a no-brainer - but it also helps with things like YouTube creator rights and the like. If I use my own songs I don’t have to fuss with them and prove that I have rights to the music. 
You also draw some killer artwork of cryptid and paranormal content. Have you drawn since you were a kid?
Oh yeah. I grew up on a farm in rural Maryland. There were no kids my age anywhere around me. Whenever I would get bored and complain my mother would say “why don’t you draw something." So, thanks Mom!
Artwork by Timothy Renner

Of all the work you do from art to music to books and podcasts – is there a particular one that you hope becomes most successful or do you just want to keep doing it all?
These things are all creatively satisfying in different ways. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s in the cards for me to make a living off of a single creative outlet anymore. I did ok with music for quite a few years - but as the music business changed I took hit after hit to the income I was making from music. It’s just the way things are - so I try to roll with the punches. Music isn’t doing it, so I try to take on more illustration jobs. Illustration jobs aren’t coming in as fast as I would like, so I start writing books. Music business throws another wrench in the gears, so I start a podcast. I don’t think any one of these things are going to pay my bills on their own, unfortunately - but all together I have been able to make it, so far. I barely make it some months, but poor and happy is better than slightly less poor and miserable. 
 The podcast is the most labor-intensive, except maybe the research for the books - and the audience build has been very very slow with my podcast. I knew going in it would be an uphill struggle, and I knew the model for podcasts is basically to give something away and hope people will reward you for it. I told myself I would give it a year and then re-evaluate. If I can triple my current patrons by 2018 it will be worth continuing the show on a bi-weekly basis. If I don’t, I will have to seriously look at things and make a call. I won’t stop, but I might scale it back to one show a month or something - which will in turn cause me to lose more patrons, I’m sure. So, I hope it doesn’t come to that, but we’ll see. 
Basically, if you listen to the credits on a show like Serial or anything where there’s a lot of production going into it, you will hear a whole bunch of names credited with various elements of the show. That doesn’t even include interns and behind the scenes people that manage various non-creative aspects of those shows. With Strange Familiars it’s just me. I have a few friends that will read the news articles for me, but everything else is me.   
 If any one thing took off to the point where it was paying my bills alone, I would have to concentrate more on that than the other things. At this point, the books, music, and illustration are all paying more bills than the podcast so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to devote so much time to making Strange Familiars unless things improve. Hopefully, things will pick up though and the show will continue its biweekly schedule in 2018. If things go especially well, I would even make it a weekly show. 
Timothy performing in Stone Breath

What was it like to get the call for Coast to Coast AM? Was it a fun experience to be a guest?
I had been listening to the show for something like 25 years so it was just surreal. I really enjoyed it. I think that was the third radio show I had done, including podcasts, so I really didn’t know what to expect. If I ever get to do it again I think I’ll be a better guest.
With just 10 episodes of Strange Familiars in the can, surely you have a ton of future thoughts for the show. Anything to tease the audience with at the moment?
At some point I want to do a “Return to Toad Road” show with new witnesses I’ve turned up since episodes 1-3 - if they will agree to come on the show. My biggest problem seems to be getting witnesses to agree to come on the show. I don’t push too hard because some of these folks have experienced real trauma. 
At least one of the upcoming shows on iron and the supernatural will include some Stone Breath songs we are recording specifically for the show, so that’s different. 
Suddenly we’ve gone from being the paranormal Serial to the paranormal Prairie Home Companion! Not really - the songs are traditional and very relevant to the topic at hand.Other than that - expect more of the same. I’ll go out on location when I can. I’ll keep digging up old stories and I’ll try to make the show as sonically interesting as I can.
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Check out all produced episodes of STRANGE FAMILIARS 
Listen and purchase the music of STONE BREATH


Astral Artifacts // Mixed Media Series

"Creatures Crossing Over" - 22x30



Drawings I work on inevitably reflect things that I'm interested or researching at that given time. This particular sketch is a bit reflective of my reading and podcast intake as of late that has been cryptid focused. On the book side, I just recently finished Nick Redfern's Three Men Seeking Monsters: Six Weeks in Pursuit of Werewolves, Lake Monsters, Giant Cats, Ghostly Devil Dogs, and Ape-Men Damn that's a long title. The book is great fun and really captures the spirit and energy of the wild and irreverent side of the paranormal quest. Having been more interested in ghosts and aliens as an entry point, I have since come to really appreciate the cryptozoology side of the genre. 


In terms of podcasts, I have to mention a few notable influences on me in the past few months. The first being the truly incredible and unique, Strange Familiars, which thus far presents fascinating cryptid urban legends from the state of Pennsylvania. I have a lot more to say about the show but I'll save that for a soon to be released feature interview with show host, Timothy Renner that is in the works.  

Another great find I came across was Monsters Among Us which stands out by placing the narrative focus on stories submitted to the show from the general public. Show host Derek Hayes does a very nice job setting up the stories and creating a creepy mood with sound design and atmospheric production. I just cracked into the series of which there are already three seasons and highly recommend listening.  


Both of these shows present some really compelling cases and testimony for unexplained beasts or unidentified animals. When treated professionally and dialing up the audio atmosphere, cryptid tales are every bit as exciting and freaky as any haunting or demonic possession. The wide-rangning variance of cryptid species is another facet that makes the whole field of study fresh and diverse.


The world is a truly bizarre and often unexplainable place. I don't doubt most people's reports of sighting strange creatures. I only wish I could have a concrete one of my own to settle the matter completely.

From Mallrat to Media Mogul: Inside Greg Carlwood's Higherside


Like a lot of people, my personal media consumption has radically transformed over the past few years. Of course I still frequent news sites to read articles but it would be fair to say at this point that podcasts have burst into a significant prominence in deconstructing and reconstructing my personal beliefs and greater cosmology. When I really started to question everything, there were podcasts already up and running, custom built to blow minds. 

I quickly realized that the number of quality podcasts catering to micro-interests was overwhelming. To the point that it's actually a great challenge to fit them all in week to week. Things may be getting to a point of over-saturartion in the paranormal and conspiratorial genres but there are a handful of standard bearers that I try not to miss due to their consistent quality and intellectual value.  

The thing I love about Greg Carlwood and his program, The Higherside Chats is that Greg is just a regular and relatable dude. He is however, very knowledgable about the topics he features and really digs down into his research to prepare for his conversations. On the other hand, he is able to bring these topics down to non-initiated audiences and avoid losing people with too much off-putting jargon. 

What makes his personal story really interesting in its own right is that he found a way to break out of the drudgery of hourly pay gigs and routines that could have become his life and has been successfully living off of his own DIY media efforts. 

Part of the beauty of the Internet is that it affords weird non-conformists to carve out their own space and find audiences to connect with on an immediate, one-to-one basis. I admire his tenacity and bravery for going out on a limb against much bigger fish. You know them, the terrestrially syndicated conspiracy shows with mega-ad bucks to back their efforts. 

I don't know about you, but I have largely dropped the terrestrial shows out of my playlist in favor of indie shows like Greg's and the litany of others who provide less shock and more substance. So, if you like what Greg does and want to get some backstory about his journey from retail sales mallrat to paranormal media mogul – you'll enjoy the following exchange as much as I did. 

Greg Carlwood and a furry friend

What was your family like growing up? Was anyone there interested in odd subject matter that influenced you?
Well, I grew up as an only child in Arnold, MO. The biggest news stories there, were The Great Flood of '93 and whenever they'd paint the water tower a different color, just to give you an idea. My parents sent me to a private Catholic school from Kindergarten, which now seems so odd. Religion wasn't a big thing at home, which I think helped me see through it a bit easier than the kids that were really living in that sort of bubble more consistently. Borderline child abuse and mind control, I say. 
My parents were incredibly kind and loving parents, who were sadly quiet normal. I wish I could say my dad had some deep state job he couldn't talk about, or mom communed with spirits to determined what was for dinner, but I guess “Dad liked Star Trek” would be about as weird as it got.  God love 'em. 
Do you remember the first pieces of paranormal or conspiracy entertainment or media that captivated you and drew you into the rabbit-hole?
Probably Child's Play. You know that movie with the Chucky doll? I saw it when I was way too young and it spooked me pretty bad. My imagination would run wild with the idea that stuffed animals or action figures could come alive and “get me.” I didn't really think of it as particularly paranormal, but it certainly is. Of course, I eventually learned that demonic possession of inanimate objects was ridiculous. Then I re-learned that it wasn't.  
The first paranormal media that really blew the doors off in a real way, was probably Dr. Stephen Greer's The Disclosure Project. Two of my good friends and I took a road trip out West, and listening to those testimonies under a canopy of stars in the desert definitely left an impression.  
Conspiracy-wise, I was always butting heads with teachers  and was obsessed with punk/ska music, so a general distaste for authority and top-down control formed quiet early. The first time that all became real though, was Loose Change. Breaking down why 9/11 wasn't what we saw on TV, couldn't have come at a better time for me.  It was first brought up in a room of guys I'd known for years, and some of us learned that day that certain people are just not conspiracy oriented. 
To see lifelong friends get emotionally worked up and shut down, over just the suggestion of an Inside Job before we even watched it, was eye opening. 
How has your family or friends reacted to your path in life – are there any funny anecdotes related to that? Did your parents want you to be a lawyer or something?
I had always talked about being some kind of entertainer or film maker. A lot of people probably snickered at that behind their backs. I would have.  
My parents were pretty open though, they let me forge my own path. Once they saw me drop out of college and my options whittled down to long days at the mall, I think they probably started to sweat a bit more than they let on. 
When I moved to California with a buddy and a plan to grow marijuana in the bedroom of our apartment and sleep on the couch, I think concern for my life choices was at its peak, but that's how committed I was to getting out of the retail trap. We had a few good crops, but once you have two pounds of weed and only know three people in the state, the gameplan for fat stacks of cash starts to break down.  
As for the podcast, I don't think anyone talks shit anymore. That probably wasn't true for the first few years. Now I try to keep the conspiracy stuff out of my (newer) friendships, or I'd lose about half of them. 

What was it like when you decided to give up your traditional 9-5 gig and pursue Higherside as a full-time endeavor? What career did you abandon and how long did it take you to come to that life-altering decision?
I am just so lucky to have my special lady, Theresa. When I wouldn't shut up about starting a podcast, she actually bought me the first mics. She has been super supportive since day one, and she was a crutch that I really needed to take the full leap.
After nearly a decade of managing Great American Cookie kiosks & Sunglass Hut establishments, I had finally gotten the “dream job” as far as I could tell, with Gamestop
If I have to manage a corporate retail chain, why not video games right? Firstly, they actually treat employees much worse, because there are so many to cycle through who think they want the job. Also, you have the resale aspect where even the normal customers are going to be disappointed in those trade values, but then you have the tweakers who are trying to convince you to give them $1.50 for some old broken controller they fished out of the trash. It was a lot of pressure, and really disheartening when I realized I couldn't even suck it up at a video game store.  
I remember one day at our annual Store Managers meeting, I was particularly liquored up and went on a rant at the table about how we're all sitting around busting our asses and drinking the corporate Kool-Aid, meanwhile we all manage million dollar stores and nobody can afford to buy a house. I remember saying, “If we're at this meeting next year, then we really fucked up.” and sure enough, a couple of them are still going several years later. 
I get it. It's very hard to break out of a path that you've been carving (often unknowingly) since high school. Even when The Higherside Chats was finally getting an audience, I still didn't see how it could replace the day job. 
I started with a couple advertisers, but once they pulled out, I saw how unstable that model was for a conspiracy show. Then, I tried donations and something I called “the Moneybomb,” where I'd give half of the donations back to a random listener. Those were great days cause I'd bring in a couple hundred bucks and also gift people between $200-$600. It was awesome to make that sort of difference, but I was advised to quit that model, as it was a little too close to gambling.  
Finally, when Theresa fully encouraged me to quit my job, I had to learn a lot more about websites/taking payments/etc, and made the Plus membership system. Luckily, that ended up being the last piece of the puzzle. 
I actually had a great relationship with my boss, Bob, before leaving Gamestop. We both knew our issues were with the structure, not the people. Although, I used to get respect for clocking in at 6am rather than 9am, but what I was really doing is laying on the floor half asleep, brushing up on my next podcast guest and just being happy to log 3 of the 8+ hours without any customers.  
Eventually, it became clear my performance was slipping and I just called him up and quit. The conversation was pretty much like this:
“Yeah Bob, I think I'm done with Gamestop.”“Ah, I thought you might be. Did you find another job somewhere?”“Well, actually, I've been doing this show online and it's going well enough now that I think I can leave.”“Really? Bring in your keys and tell me about it.”  
Bob quit Gamestop the following week. 
Who was your first guest on the show? What made you choose that individual? Where you a natural right from the start?
The first couple dozen shows were just with friends. We told offensive jokes and smoked weed. A couple of times we tried to podcast on mushrooms, with little success. We also did really hacky bits like, Guess Romeo's Race, -things I knew were not going to cut it, so no, not a natural from the start at all. 
My first real guest, because I was a fan and he actually replied, was Michael Tsarion. He no longer responds to my emails. 

What are the personal or mental dangers of getting too deeply wrapped up in a conspiratorial worldview? Is it a phase that most people get trapped in or do you see most people move through it and beyond it? 
The biggest danger is developing a defeatist's attitude, thinking that you can't get ahead because the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, and their reptilian army are making it impossible and you're just going to stick with your shitty job until it all comes crashing down. Avoid that, and you're alright.  
Conspiracy gives you a more accurate map of how to navigate life, in my opinion. I say this because so much of our formative years are spent being told that cheating is always wrong, and if we just work hard and get a good job with a big company, we'll be happy and successful. 
Well, that's exactly the opposite of how people actually get ahead. They often do cheat, and the most successful people start their own thing. Nobody ever gets paid more than their boss, right? Think about that. Also, the school system is set up to breed people who are subservient to a management class. Funny how that management class is who paid for the education system and made it mandatory. A little insurance policy for their market share, perhaps? 
We have these warped ideas about the old days of child labor, but those were 10 yrs olds who knew how to farm and take care of themselves. Now we have a system that teaches kids essentially nothing practical or useful until college. Adult children, with plenty of bosses around to give them chores. That's what they want. Be better. 
Do you recall the worst rabbit hole you got swept up in?
Flat Earth. Eric Dubay makes one hell of an argument. 
I have always been intrigued by your approach to the topics you deal with. You have mentioned in the past that a lot of conspiracy researchers come into the topic from a religious or right-wing political bent that heavily shapes the narrative or at least the conclusions they end up reaching. Did you start Higherside specifically to offer a counterpoint that is less ideologically concentrated?
I definitely did. When THC started, it was really just Coast to Coast AM and Alex Jones here in the states. Both lean heavily right/christian and didn't agree with me. I grew up more liberal/atheist. That shows on THC, but I really wanted it to be as unbiased and focused on the guest as it could be.  
It's funny, because now because my views on both liberalism and atheism have softened quiet a bit. 
In the case of liberalism, I think it's changed. It used to be the conservatives who were policing thought and imposing censorship, which has now sort of flipped. I'm sure I just hadn't lived long enough to realize that the back and forth is part of the game.
In the case of atheism, it's because I've communed with beings on the astral plane. I've learned to stop labeling myself anything now, because eventually what the label represents will change, or you will. 
Many researchers or show hosts can come across as very dark or worse, as rabid fanatics spewing fear and division. How important is having a sense of humor when wadding through these topics?
Humor is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. You're right in that a lot of the stuff we talk about is depressing. Joking about it doesn't change the landscape one way or the other, but it does release endorphins.  
Honestly, I just don't have the “offended” gene. To see it trigger in other people just because (as Joe Rogan would say) someone made the wrong series of noises with their mouth, is fascinating to me. 
Do you have an episode you are most proud of or a guest you landed that you didn’t expect to book? 
I'm probably most proud of the health related episodes. There was this one in particular:
Dr. Richard Jacoby | The Toxic Effects of Sugar and The Corporate Food Conspiracy.
I still get emails from people saying that episode changed their lives. They were finally motivated to stop eating sugar and processed foods, and the weight just melted off. That's amazing, right? Alien demons and the Hollow Earth are fun, but getting feedback like that really sticks with a guy. 
As for guests I didn't expect to land, that still happens almost every month. The first true, “Holy shit, it's happening!” one for me was Jacque Fresco of the Venus Project. I was really into that concept for a while. Another would be Prof. Griff from Public Enemy. That still surprises me. 

What have you learned about hosting a show that has come as a result of years of producing the show? Both on the technical side relating to what makes a good show and on the personal side having to do with how you look at the world. 
Don't cater. Lots of people will have opinions on how you could do it better, once you've already made it popular. A lot of them might even be right, but try to stay as true to form as you can. The worst thing about every show I like, is that it eventually changes into something I like a lot less. They change formats, add segments that aren't that good, inject more ads, add new people, switch to video, etc. I'm always keeping that in mind. 
Podcasts are usually a 1 to 1 experience. If I like a show, I don't care how many other people are listening. Hosts sometimes forget that, and think they need to do something different at a certain point. Different from how you built the audience? Is that wise? I'm not so sure.
Have you gradually gotten more involved in experimenting with the tools of the occult since getting to know some magicians? Which guests might have encouraged or prompted you to take that dive? 
A little, but probably not to the degree the audience thinks. The fact is that magic is hard. It works, but it's hard. 
I have a guest coming up, Dr. Stephen Skinner, who is like the professor of magic. One I'm really, really, excited and proud to be presenting to the audience. The only reason the English speaking world has access to some of the old grimoires, is because he translated them.
He made the analogy that magic is like chemistry. You have to do everything just right to get results, and few people take the time, even though it can change your life. It's like most things we talk about on THC. The people who are convinced it's bullshit, are the ones who have done the least amount of research. That applies to 9/11, Vaccines, UFOs, and of course magic.  
The interest in magic, for me,  came from examining world events, secret society doctrines, and the actions of the Elite - and noticing little strange things that hinted at some form of esoterica. Maybe they are using tools they didn't teach us in school?  Again, wouldn't be the first time.   
Also, Gordon White, of RuneSoup.com has to get the shout out for taking me further down that path and understanding than anyone else. In fact, I'm halfway though his fascinating Grimoire course. Get into it!
Greg with Gordon White doing something magical

Every week there’s a new guest with a new book to promote. Does most of your “work” schedule consist of reading? That’s a lot of damn books!
Hell yeah it is. As a listener of these types of shows, I used to think that aspect cheapened things. “Oh, another guy just making things up trying to sell books. Great.” But that's a mindset for people who have never made money on their own from an expertise they've spent a lot of time developing. Of course they should write books, and hosts would be better served by actually reading them. (Helpful hint for the competition out there!)
What bothers me is when a guest avoids detail and answers every question with some form of “Well, that's in my book.” Yeah. I know. It's a good book, that's why you're here. My show has to be good too, buddy. 
Speaking of books, do you have a top five that you have read related to the show?
Gordon White – The Chaos Protocols: Magical Techniques For Navigating The New Economic Reality. (Great for learning to fold magic into your life, how to take control of your life, and why you can't depend on the old ways much longer.) 
James Taylor Gatto - Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (Why school is the way it is. Mind blowing. ) 
William Michael Mott - Caverns, Cauldrons, and Concealed Creatures: A Study of Subterranean Mysteries in History, Folklore, and Myth (Some of my favorite stories about inner Earth beings I've heard.) 
Peter Levenda – The Sinister Forces Trilogy (A great walk through strange areas of history, and a look at how supernatural forces would have played a role in organizing them. Amazing.)  
John Scura – Battle Hymn (Even he wasn't crazy about the name of the book, but I got him for my 50th episode to breakdown the Rothschild and Rockefeller families, and it's a great book for that.)
After so much exposure to weird and wild ideas, are you easily able to exercise discretion in what you take into your worldview, or do you find your self believing things and then disbelieving them in a constant reshaping process?
I would say I try on different hats, but my views do get a bit more cemented with time. People mistake exploring an idea for accepting it too, it's important to distinguish between those. 
Again, people tell me all day vaccines are harmless, but how many of them know what Thimerosal even is? Or what MRR stands for? Or what the SV40 virus was? Doctors used to promote cigarettes, you want to just take their word for it? 
You have to really research these things. Sometimes I do it as a thought exercise, sometimes I just really want to hear the best arguments for a fringe idea. Then you think about it for a few days, and if you can poke enough holes in it, toss it out.  
People should have far fewer knee-jerk reactions to controversial material though, if you ask me. Base it on data, when you can. 
Who are, hands down, your top three favorite people to talk to? For instance, if people just restricted themselves to those three people, they would have a pretty complete perspective on all the important territory?
Joseph Farrell, Gordon White & Nick Redfern (for the paranormal side)  – 3 of my most often returning guests. Peter Levenda should go in there too, but you said three. Sorry, Peter.
Have relationships with certain guests split over into your personal life? What has that experience been like to actually hang out with some of these guys in person? 
Definitely. Listeners and guests, really. Gordon White showed me and my lady a great time in London. The hosts of, Those Conspiracy Guys, showed us a great time in Dublin. The man behind, Lifted Labs, got us super high in Oregon. I went on a nearly two week bus tour with Freeman Fly and Dan Fogler to promote Dan's movie Don Peyote
Toured the Laurel Canyon hot spots with Mark Devlin. Spent two weeks in Armenia on a Graham Hancock tour. The list goes on. Usually when I get together with these people, we just go down the rabbit hole and get fucked up. Nobody has struck me as particularly strange, yet. 
Greg with Graham Hancock

The “conspiratainment” genre seems pretty mutually supporting. What are the trusted shows or blogs you turn to on a regular basis for info?
Gordon White's www.RuneSoup.com  
Chris Knowles' www.secretsun.blogspot.com 
Joseph Farrell's https://gizadeathstar.com  
Everything Is A Rich Man's Trick
Michael Joseph's Esoteric Series
What have been the most important psychedelic experiences you’ve had in your life in terms of types of hallucinogens? How important are the insights you’ve pulled out of those trips?
I talk about these a lot, but the one that takes the cake is the experience I had where some friends and I were going to smoke some Salvia, just because it was legal here when we moved to CA. I had a serious blast off experience. I left the body, but it felt way more familiar than it did foreign. I spoke with two entities briefly in this other place.  
A male being who was really siked for me to be there, and welcomed be “back.” He seemed to think it was particularly interesting that I returned in this form. Then, there was a female energy that was far more cynical. She had the attitude of a permanent eye roll. She kept reminding the male being that my visit would be brief and that “It's never a long stay, so why get so worked up?” It was fairly paradigm changing.  
I also have experiences on Mushrooms, LSD, and Ecstasy that all profoundly changed my life and I almost certainly wouldn't be where I am without each one of those compounds. All used sparingly. 
A lot of conspiracies are just fun possibilities that serve as interesting “what if…” exercises that really do no harm. On the other hand I feel that a good number are peddled to the detriment of our culture by directing hysteria at minorities or esoteric practices as a means of scapegoating. You have covered pretty much everything under the sun on your show. Are there certain topics that you feel shouldn’t be given a platform because they are so outlandish or slanderous? Is there a responsibility for someone in your role to self-police against that kind of material? 
I've considered this, and I only have myself to go off of, but I've always enjoyed exploring taboo paradigms. I also like outlandish theories, and offensive humor. Personally, I have no problem switching between those things on a dime either. I can only assume some fraction of people feel the same way.  
I wouldn't say I regret exploring any topic, because I don't consider the topics of each show, necessarily an endorsement of that position. Sometimes it's like, “This is what a Flat Earther thinks.” “These are the data points that make a Holocaust denier think that way.” I would never say there's anything wrong with understanding a perspective, even if you think it's completely missing the boat. We should try and see where people are coming from before we shut them down.  
The topic of “time wasting” conspiracies does come up quiet often too, and I always just laugh. For some reason everyone starts acting like they have perfectly efficient lives when the conversation drifts to conspiracies. Sure, all that Facebook scrolling, or the 6 seasons of Game of Thrones was time well spent - but watching a chemtrail documentary is judged more harshly?
Of all the subcategories of paranormal or conspiracy topics, what are the niches that you are personally the most passionate about covering? 
I'm getting some enjoyment out of helping to increase people's understanding of magic, how it works, and what it can be. Although, I'm still talking third hand, there's something there. 
Also, I like highlighting the Industrial Age Robber Barons.  Just from them we got: 
- Suppressed energy alternatives to oil.  
- Top tier public transportation systems dismantled. Electric car killed. 
- Prohibition of alcohol and marijuana, the later is still happening of course.  
- A required-by-law school system structured from Prussian military tactics designed to create dependency and obedience.  
- Oil Wars. 
- Big Pharma/The suppression of natural cures for oil based chemical alternatives.  
...and now many of these petrochemical companies control the food supply. Not good. We should like, stop them or something. 
Do you expect to see things happening on the political level that we have never seen before with Trump and his administration at the helm? What are you bracing for?
In some ways, but the conspiracy world thinks we're always one deep breath away from the collapse, and has for as long as I've been going to the meetings. Trump is nuts, but his election wasn't much different than a more extreme (and less believable) version of the “I'm the outsider!” thing they did for Obama.  
I do think the American Empire is getting mighty expensive, wheels are turning, and we're going to see a serious economic decline in the West over the next few decades. We've been bled dry in a lot of ways. The 2008 bailout for one. These things will start to effect us eventually.  
Watch some Federal Reserve documentaries and it starts to seem like the fractional reserve banking system is supposed to break a country down to the bankers over 100 years. We've just gotten so big, we've kicked the can down the road a bit. 

I know you have trepidations on seeing the government abolished or dismantled. What positives do you think can be achieved through government action, given just how fucked up and corrupt the system is?
I'm all for making government smaller, and I think that's the key. Let states decide what their laws are. If you want to smoke weed freely, go to Colorado. If you can't be around abortions, go to Texas, etc. As a people, we have to worry less about making sure our team wins, and work to increase freedom and choice for all sides. To steal some words from Gordon White's Chaeconomica: Label-Free Edition 
“The goal should not be 'more' government spending. It should be better government spending. And that begins with de-risking the effect of croneyism by decentralising every damn thing, not centralising it further because you think your preferred dictator is honest. Croneyism will always exist. But let's have a system so that when it happens, it brings down a regional school council, not the richest country in the history of the planet.” 
I concur. Smallerize it. 
What are two or three things every person can focus on in their lives and communities that will actual make a difference or offer some defense against the games that play out at the top of the pyramid that we as individuals can do little to effect? 
The best, and sort of only, thing we can do is work on ourselves. I heard Jordon Peterson on the Joe Rogan Experience say something to the effect of  “How many protesters don't even have a clean room?”
It's sort of true. Fix the foundations of ourselves first, or there's nothing to build a better way on top of.  
Also, get involved locally. Some conspiracy gurus will tell you that it's futile, that participating in their system in any way, is to energetically submit your power and blah, blah, blah.  
Okay, there might be some truth to that, but get involved anyway. Otherwise it's guaranteed to be just criminals and assholes making decisions. 
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Find more Greg at THE HIGHERSIDE CHATS or on TWITTER
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