Power Couples of the Paranormal

I know that I have sampled only a few of the many, many paranormal, occult, Pagan, and esoteric podcasts and video channels out there. (Feel free to add your faves in the comments.)

But when  you look at podcasts done by people who are partners in real life, I can think of two sets of contenders: Jessi Leigh and Joe Doyle of the Hellbent Holler YouTube Channel and Greg and Dana Newkirk of Hellier fame, who now have a new podcast, The Haunted Objects. (The former website, not updated since 2020, was The Week in Weird.)

Hellier, a documentary series (two seasons) that compressed several years of the Newkirks’ and their associates’ attempt to find the story behind some mysterious communications:

In 2012, Greg Newkirk received an email from a man calling himself David Christie, who claimed that he and his family were being terrorized by unearthly creatures by night. After exchanging emails, David disappeared. For the next five years, the case only got stranger, as more connections and mysterious emails came in. Then, in 2017, Greg and a team of researchers traveled to rural Kentucky, not knowing what they would uncover, or how deep they would discover the case might go.

Dana Newkirk using a God Helmet in a Hellier episode.

The story was compelling. (I thought Season 2 lagged a bit in the middle, but it finished strong.)  The videography and editing were better than a lot of what you see on ghost-hunting or Bigfoot-hunting TV shows. And it was released in 2020 just before people can to be forced indoors — meaning they could live vicariously through the investigators’ travels in eastern Kentucky. You can stream or download it or get it on Blu-Ray at the site.

It not only had thousands of viewers but has attracted the attention of scholars of Western esotercism and “the weird” in general. For instance,  Rejected Religion podcast host Stephanie Shea explains it to guest Aaron French in this November 2022 episode and earlier devoted to episodes to Hellier and High Strangeness. Here is the first one, from January 2021.

The Newkirks also manage museum of the paranormal, and the Haunted Object podcast builds each episode around a particular item, such as a plank from the Long Island house infamous for the Amityville Horror, leading to a freewheeling and often comic dialog between them and their producer, Connor Randall.

Jessi’s T-shirt proclaims “Make cryptozoologiy dangerous again.”

Meanwhile, Jessi and Joe are out in the woods. The two cryptid-hunters live in a former South Carolina textile-mill town but met when they were both bartending in New Orleans. As Jessi puts it,

I was born and raised in the mountains of western North Carolina, but when my wanderlust took hold I escaped to the Deep South. I spent 10 years in New Orleans, in and out of bars, swamps and graveyards. Eventually I became homesick for the mountains, trees and endless adventure of a darkened wood. It was time to leave the sirens, grime and crime behind. Along with my partner Joe, I moved back to Appalachia and began seeking out the mysteries and legends that still live in the hills we call home. Using the latest gear and equipment, we travel deep into the forests of Appalachia to gather evidence of the weird, strange and supernatural that roams this ancient slice of heaven.

In the spirit of Jessi’s T-shirt, they investigate areas of Bigfoot sightings, Dogman sitings (a sort of upright werewolf), and other mystery beasts.

Their technology includes state-of-the-art night-vision gear, audio recorders, video and still cameras, survival gear, and personal weapons. You could call them “preppers of the paranormal.”

The last is not a question of “What caliber for Dogman?” but rather an honest reponse to the fact they are moving through areas where they could encounter humans who are, let’s say, sort of feral.

Joe and Jessi push their own boundaries, which leads to lines like “Did you hear like a scream?” or “If every night felt like this [eerie], I wouldn’t do this” or “That was not a coyote. That was not a coyote!” (All quotes from “Land Between the Lakes, Part 2: The Search for Dogman Contiues.

Their videos have a respectable number of followers, although not as many as the Newkirks’, and of course they have their own merchandise.

Locales

Greg and Dana: Generally indoors in haunted buildings, sometimes caves, in various states.

Joe and Jessi: Outdoors in forests of the southern Appalachian Mountains (north Georgia), Cumberland Plateau, and the Land Between the Lakes (Tennessee-Kentucky). Generally public land, such as the Chattahochee-Oconee National Forest.

Methodology

Joe and Jessi: Stalking through the woods, investigating ruins, utilizing audio and visual recorders, and utilizing visible and infrared ligjhts at night.

Greg and Dana: Investigations of haunted places and ghost experiences, utiilizing psychic impressions, amplified by technology such as the Estes Method and the God Helmet. Occasional ritual.

Production Values

Greg and Dana: Professional-level video.

Jessi and Joe: DIY level, but getting better all the time. Jessi is their editor.

What I Wish They Would Do

Get expert advice.

In the first season of Hellier, I remember talking the screen as the participants fumbled around seeking some information, “Why don’t you go to the local library and talk to the local history librarian? Even small libraries often have one, and they want to share!”

Later in Season 2 they do just that when researching a vanished restaurant in Kentucky and are amazed that the local library has photos of it. Libaries! Who knew?

Jessi and Joe spend a lot of time with boots on the ground, but I with they could balance that with more research instead, of, for instance, just wandering around old federal government buildings in the Land Between the Lakes and asking, “What was this for? Was it fortified against Dogman?”

Granted, federal agencies often do a poor job of preserving their own institutional history — as a Forest Service brat, I know this.

Also, an experienced hunter or wildlife biologist could offer alternative explanations to “How did these deer bones get here?” or “What made those scratches on the tree?”

Yet even though I sometimes say to the screen, “I bet a black bear did that,” there are times when I have no easy naturalistic explanation for what they encounter — and that is what keeps me coming back.

Pagans and Others at the AAR-SBL

Thursday I arrived in Atlanta for the joint annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.

Attendees come from all over:
Mary's Name Tag

Kitty's Name Tag

They are focused on the presentations they must make:

Ali Beyer
Alison Beyer, “Creating Sacred Space with Art Exhibitions: Another Approach to Interfaith Work”

They attend a lot of receptions, especially those with a reputation for plentiful food and drink:

NAASR reception
North American Association for the Study of Religion. Janet Joyce,
managing director of Equinox Publishing,  center,  in black.

They go to more sessions:

ritual studies
Ellen Randolph, “Gnosticism, Transformation, and the Role of the Feminine
in the Gnostic Mass of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica.” Grant Potts, session presider.

They try to find a place to sit.

Marriott Bar

They go to the book exhibit and make sure that their and their friends’ books are prominently displayed:

Pagan Britain
Yale University Press booth.

They slip away to museums:

GR and vases
Gwendolyn Reece at the Carlos Museum, Emory University.

They hang out in the various hotel bars and go out to dinner:

shawn, helen, barbara
Shawn Arthur, Helen Berger (back to camera), Barbara McGraw, (unidentified), Doug Cowan.

And then it’s back onto the escalator. Where is the “Dunwoody Room”?

between session

Until they are exhausted and must go home, where they sort out their notes:

IMG_0945

 

UPDATE: Here is Thorn Mooney’s take on the same event, “Me, Pagan Studies, and the AAR.”