Here Be Monsters Podcast

The Podcast About the Unknown

HBM051: Sister Bethany, Proxy for the Dead

Bethany Denton was about five years old when she learned that she was a Mormon. When she was eight, she learned that she was an eternal spirit destined for an eternal afterlife.  The idea of eternity terrified her, and made her afraid to stargaze into the boundless universe.

When she got older, Bethany was allowed to enter the Mormon temple in Billings, Montana to act as the proxy in baptisms for the dead.

"Mormon Baptism" by Frederick Hawkins Piercy (1830-1891), a Mormon artist.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was founded in 1830, and has practiced baptisms for the dead (or "baptism by proxy") since 1840. This practice intends to give dead people the opportunity to join the church in the afterlife from Spirit Prison, where all souls wind up. Mormon teenagers are eligible to serve as a proxy when they turn twelve years old.  Over the course of her adolescence, Bethany was the proxy for about 30 dead people. 

When Bethany was seventeen, the late prophet Gordon B. Hinckley tasked the youth of the LDS church to read the Book of Mormon cover to cover. Bethany took him up on his challenge, and started noticing inconsistencies that made her question (and ultimately lose) her faith. She doesn't go to church anymore and hasn't for almost ten years, but she's still a member of the church, and always will be...unless she sends a formal letter of resignation.

Today, Bethany Denton is the Managing Editor of Here Be Monsters and loves to marvel at outer space.  She co-produced this piece with Jeff Emtman, along with help from Nick White, our editor at KCRW. Track image by Kyle Keenan.

Music: The Black Spot

HBM050: The Scientist is not the Angel of Death

What's a life worth? About $25, before shipping.  At least, that's the case if you want a high-quality inbred lab mouse, like the C57BL/6J (in the biz, they just call them "black mice"). 

In this episode of Here Be Monsters, Jeff Emtman joins "The Scientist," an unnamed cancer researcher, for an after-hours trip to his lab, where they visit the hundreds of lab mice that he tends to.  The Scientist's job is to inject his mice with cancer cells, then attempt to cure them using experimental treatments.  After the cancers become too large, he kills the mice. 

Jeff Emtman wearing his protective garb prior to entering The Scientist's lab. 

Jeff Emtman wearing his protective garb prior to entering The Scientist's lab. 

The Scientist points to the spot where he injects cancer cells into lab mice. 

Trailer for "Fantastic Planet" (1973). AKA "La Planète sauvage".

The Scientist says that he is not a satanist, despite the satanic art that covers much of his body.   Instead, he considers himself a utilitarian, someone who believes that sacrifices must be made to promote the most good for the most beings (human or otherwise).  And "sacrifice" is actually the technical term he and others use for killing the mice.  The Scientist admits that it is a euphemistic word, but defends it because "from their sacrifice, you gain knowledge."

In his lab, the death comes via carbon dioxide, which is often thought to be the most painless option (though it has critics).  Other labs use cervical dislocation--though generally there's a requirement that the animal must be unconscious first.  

After the lab, Jeff and The Scientist sit out on a porch drinking beer, discussing the path to becoming a scientist, The Scientist's admiration of Neil Degrasse Tyson, and the beautiful French animated film, Fantastic Planet.

Music: Lucky Dragons ||| The Black Spot ||| Flowers

HBM049: Sam's Japan Tapes

When Sam Parker went to Japan to celebrate his mother's 60th birthday, he brought along a handheld audio recorder.  For the next few weeks, he recorded every sound that he could find, attempting to capture as many audio snapshots of Japan as possible. 

Sam doesn't really take pictures.  Without his glasses he's legally blind twice over.  So, to remember and share his trip, he created five beautiful audio postcards.

On this episode, Sam Parker and Jeff Emtman discuss the merits of deep listening and whether it's possible for a sound to be truly ugly.   Sam also shares three of his audio postcards. 

You can download all of Sam's postcards at (also embedded below).

Sam and Jeff met in college while working at KUGS-fm, a student operated station in Bellingham, Washington.  Sam taught Jeff how to listen closely.  

Music: Sam and Jeff made all the music on this episode using a guitar and a synthesizer, respectively.

Photos Courtesy of David Parker and Juliana de Groot.

This episode contains postcards 1, 3, and 2 (in that order).  Here are Sam's liner notes:

Postcard 1 (begins 08:30)

My dad being a smart-ass on top of Mount Omuro, Izu Peninsula.

Old-school drone at the Meiji Shrine gift shop.

Crowds at the Osaka aquarium

Samurai re-enactment at Himeji Castle.

A private onsen in the town of Ito.

Mystery music coming from out of the woods at Yoyogi Park + my mom explaining directions for purifying yourself pre-shrine.

Birdsong from Miyajima, one of the most serene places I have ever been to.  You should go.

Postcard 3 (begins 11:40)

A television playing an old Donald Duck cartoon in Shimokitazawa.

Lunch-time rush hour at Shibuya station - each beep is a person going through the gate.

A bucolic little tune being piped through speakers in a light-post.

The performance artist Morimura Yasumasa re-enacting the final words of author Yukio Mishima.

Windchimes at Daisho-in temple, which was maybe the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to in my life, no hyperbole. 

Postcard 2 (begins 15:00)

An ATM transaction in Harajuku

Music in the lobby of a hostel in Miyajima

The best laugh I heard all trip, Narita airport.

An anti-militarization/nuclear warfare protest in Osaka. The current Prime Minister (Shinzo Abe) is a hawk and has authorized an expansion of US military bases in Okinawa.

While in Miyajima, I walked by a building and someone had left a portable CD player with a speaker on a staircase. It was playing this song on repeat. This was pretty typical of Miyajima. There are also some wind chimes playing very low in certain places. Maybe you can hear them?

HBM048: Barrie's Mental Tempest [EXPLICIT]

Barrie Wylie has heard voices for as long as he can remember. Growing up on a small island in Scotland, the voices in his head were like secret best friends that he could play with. When he left school to become a fisherman at 15, his voices told him he was a disciple of Jesus.  He believed he could control the weather and prevent harm befalling his boat and his crew.

As Barrie got older, his voices intensified. They became more aggressive, telling him to harm himself and others.

He learned to cope by silencing the voices with alcohol and other drugs.  He wound up in police custody more than once. 

When a family friend died under mysterious circumstances, Barrie was arrested and falsely suspected of murder.  While in custody, he told his doctor about his voices.   An autopsy later revealed that the friend died of natural causes. 

But Barrie spent the next seven years in and out of psychiatric hospitals, all while heavily medicated for paranoid schizophrenia. The voices don't leave him, no matter how much medication he took. They only got worse, until Barrie believed he heard the devil himself inside his brain. 

He tried to kill himself at least twice.  [Please note: this episode contains two descriptions of attempted suicide.] 

It was a social worker from the hospital who first suggested the Hearing Voices Network to Barrie.  HVN takes an unorthodox approach.  They say that hearing voices in and of itself should not yield a diagnosis.  They encourage people to talk to the their voices, treat their voices as if they're real people.  This approach is not universally accepted.

Barrie and Rachel's wedding.

But Barrie said that talking to his voices actively gave him agency he never had before.  He stopped trying to rid himself of his voices and instead learned how to have healthy relationships with them.  He stopped trying to hurt himself.  He stopped believing that his voices could control him. 

He joined Facebook support groups that advocated the Hearing Voices appoach.  And that's where he fell in love with Rachel.  She also heard voices.   Barrie and Rachel are now married and have a young child together.   He says he couldn't be happier. 

Barrie runs a website documenting his story and helping others through theirs. 

This episode was produced by Luke Eldridge.  Luke is an independent producer living in the UK.  

The episode was edited by Bethany Denton, with help from Jeff Emtman, and Nick White. 

Music: Serocell ||| Flowers ||| The Black Spot

Track image: Temptation of Christ, By Dutch-French painter Ary Scheffer, 1854. 

We recently released another (very different) story about mental illness and delusions of Jesus.  It's HBM039: A Goddamn Missionary, in which a man with Bi-polar Disorder learns to control his manic episodes through medication and altruism. 

KCRW is currently in the midst of their fall fund drive.  Support us by supporting them.  Become a member or renew.

HBM047: Peacocks Without Tails [EXPLICIT]

When Hippocrates noticed that the hair on the top of his head was falling out, he fought it by applying various ointments of opium to his scalp.  But none of them worked.  So he called it a disease and named it "Alopecia" (translated to "disease of the fox") after the mangy, hairless foxes that wandered Greece in those days.  His friends called it something different though, they called it a "Hippocratic Wreath."

He also tried sheep urine.  That didn't work either. 

Like Hippocrates, HBM Host Jeff Emtman is concerned about his hair loss.  And unlike Hippocrates, Jeff is staying away from opium and sheep genitals.   However, he wants to know if there's a relationship between baldness and vanity, so he found three bald (and bald-ish) people asked them to share stories of their hair and how they lost it, how they fought it, how they dealt with it, along with their wishes and regrets.  

Jeff Emtman interviewed: 
- Brian Emtman (Jeff's brother), who lost his hair at 20
- Eric Nucci, who has genetically thin hair
- Carrie McCarty, who has trichotillomania, a hair plucking psychiatric disorder

Brian Emtman Hiking in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. 

Eric Nucci in 7th grade

Carrie McCarty composited on to the body of an antelope (per her request)

If you're a die-hard Here Be Monsters fan, you'll recognize Carrie's voice from a short radio piece called Psychic Blob, wherein Carrie extracts a benign tumor from Jeff's arm in her backyard.  

Please note: this episode has some foul language.

Track image for this episode comes from an app called Make Me Bald (free, Android only). 

Music: Monster Rally ||| Lucky Dragons ||| The Black Spot ||| Flowers ||| Serocell

Did you hear?  We're coming to LA to do a live show on October, 18th, 2015.  Get your tickets now