Here Be Monsters Podcast

The Podcast About the Unknown

HBM096: Are We Still Afraid?

Here Be Monsters is almost 100 episodes old. It’s grown a lot since Jeff was a scared 22 year old learning audio editing in his basement. So as we approach the milestone, we take a look back, check in with some of our memorable guests, and take the chance to answer some listener questions while we’re at it.

Content Note:

Drug Use (recreational)
Death (accidental)
Death (intentional)
Eating Disorder
Language
Sexual Humor
Sex

On this episode we’ll hear updates from or about:

Luke Eldridge and his sons Griff and Ira from HBM076: Griff’s Speech
Remi Dun from HBM080: An Ocean of Halves
Muhammad Tariq from HBM077: Snow on Date Trees, Then on Pines
Tyler Higgins from HBM052: Call 601-2-SATAN-2
Patti Negri from HBM054: Flaming Sword of Truth
Erin from HBM064: A Shrinking Shadow
Jacob Lemanski from HBM015: Jacob Visits SaturnHBM072: Ant God

▶   You can call us any time at (765) 374 - 5263   ◀

Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman produced this episode. Nick White is our editor at KCRW. 

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

HBM095: The Bats that Stay

Not all migratory bats migrate.  We don’t know why some choose to stay behind at their summer roosts.  But according to the University of Washington’s Sharlene Santana, the bats that stay tend to die.  

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Content note:


Language (fleeting)

In this episode, HBM host Jeff Emtman attempts to make a metaphor about bats and humans.  Perhaps it’s anthropomorphic, perhaps it’s unnecessarily poetic, or perhaps it’s a fair one.  

Jeff leaves his home in Seattle to move cross-country to Boston.  Along the way he takes a five day layover in Colorado to meet up with an old friend (Helen Katich) and her girlfriend (Laura Goldhamer).  The three drive from Denver to the San Luis Valley of Central Colorado.  They visit Valley View Hot Springs and walk to the mouth of an abandoned iron mine 10,000 feet above sea level called “The Glory Hole.”  

The Glory Hole houses an estimated 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats each summer.  These bats migrate in from Central and South America to eat bugs and raise their pups.  They fly together at dusk in gatherings visually similar to the murmurations of starlings.   This bat species, also known as the Brazilian free-tailed bat, is extremely social, and perhaps nature’s most gregarious mammal species.  

A preserved Mexican free-tailed bat at the welcome center of Valley View Hot Springs

Helen Katich

Despite this, their social and hunting calls are completely inaudible to humans.  They produce ultrasounds, sounds too high pitched for human ears. But some audio equipment (see below) can still record these sounds, then computer algorithms can pitch them down into human-audible sounds.  

One evening, Jeff and Helen and Laura hike to the mouth of the mine.  At this vantage point, they watch some of the bats flying out and Jeff manages to record some of their loud, ultrasonic vocalizations, before the storm forces them back downhill.  The next day, Jeff flies to his new home in Boston.

Jeff Emtman produced this episode.  He recorded the bat calls with a Tascam DR100MK3 at 192kHZ sample rate and an Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro at sample rates of 256kHZ and 384kHZ.  The calls were recorded at frequencies of approximately 21kHZ to 36kHZ and time/pitch-shifted with Elastique 3.2.3 Pro.

Music: The Black Spot ||| Laura Goldhamer

HBM094: The Fatigue of Violence

In the nearly 20 years that Susan Randall’s been working as a private investigator, she’s seen Vermont’s most disadvantaged people struggling to have life’s most basic amenities.  Sometimes her job is to interview people addicted to crack, to help determine whether they’re suitable parents. Sometimes her job is to examine blood spatter at gruesome crime scenes.  She recently helped defend a client who murdered a DCF worker in broad daylight.

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Content Note:

Descriptions of violent crimes

Susan has seen how humanity’s worst instincts become possible where cyclical poverty, incarceration, and drug addiction wreak havoc on communities.

There’s a necessary split screen in Susan’s mind.  One screen shows a home life: dropping her kids off at lacrosse, helping them with school projects.  And another screen shows a work life: prison visitation rooms, run-down trailer parks, the color-shifted skin of a corpse.

Producer Erica Heilman interviewed Susan over the course of three years.  Erica is a private investigator herself, and Susan was her mentor. The two talk about the mechanics of the legal system, poverty and how to survive a job that takes such an emotional toll.

Erica produces the podcast Rumble Strip. Some of the audio on this episode came from here and here.  Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton re-purposed this audio for Here Be Monsters.

Music:  The Black Spot

HBM093: The Brain Scoop

In school, Divya Anantharaman used to get teased for having long skinny fingers like ET.  But now she sees them as valuable asset for the intricate work she does.  Divya runs Friends Forever Taxidermy in Brooklyn, New York.  

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Content Note: 

Fleshy Sounds

In this episode Divya carries a recorder with her while as she slowly disassembles a deceased pet parrot: snipping joints, scooping brains, removing eyes, separating the skin from the body. Birds’ skin is very thin—Divya likens the peeling to removing a delicate silk stocking.

Jeff Emtman edited this episode with help from Bethany Denton.  We found out about Divya through Erika Harada, another skilled artist in the Brooklyn taxidermy scene.  

Divya Anantharaman with a deceased Himalayan pheasant.

If you have an episode idea for us, please reach out via email, twitter, facebook, or instagram.

Music: Serocell (new album out!) and Phantom Fauna

HBM092: Carry the Scent

Robert Larson does not have an easy job. He searches for missing people with his dog Captain Dexter as a K9 search and rescue volunteer. Robert often travels across the Midwest, and he does this work pro bono, relying on donations from his supporters to pay for gas, lodging, and dog food.

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Content Note:
Death of Child
Mention of Suicide
Coarse Language

Robert does not work with law enforcement. He’s not certified to do this work by any professional agency. He says that he has to work alone to do his best work, outside of the red tape of official search and rescue teams and law enforcement agencies.

In 2013, Robert felt compelled to search for a missing one-year-old named Bryeon Hunter. It was his very first search. Robert went at it alone without the permission or cooperation of law enforcement. He quit his job and spent a 30 days searching for Bryeon, falling behind on his bills all the while.

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Incredibly, despite his lack of training and lack of support, Robert found Bryeon in the the Des Plaines River.

Since finding Bryeon, Robert started his own search and rescue unit called K9 Specialties. He’s very active on Facebook, often using it to solicit donations and get referrals for missing persons cases from his followers. He’s gained a substantial following, but also hateful facebook group dedicated to disparaging Robert and his work.

The group RTL Fanclub posts rebuttals to Robert’s Facebook activity almost daily. Its members have even gone so far as to caution families of missing people against working with Robert, claiming that he’s a con man and inept at search and rescue. They often criticize him for not having a “real” job, and accuse him of inflating his abilities. The group has about 230 followers at the time of broadcast.

It’s not unreasonable for Robert to be met with skepticism and criticism. Search and rescue is a field that attracts scammers because families with missing loved ones are vulnerable to exploitation. After 9/11, scammers claimed to have found missing people. One K9 handler Harry E. Oakes charged hundreds of dollars a day for his services before he was debunked. Another K9 handler, Sandra Anderson, was indicted in 2004 for planting human remains for her search dog to find. Another fraud, Doug Copp, made hundreds of thousands of dollars after creating an unfounded theory to surviving an earthquake called the Triangle of Life.

According to former executive director of the National Association of Search and Rescue Kim Kelly, there is a profile of a typical search and rescue scammer:

  1. They’re driven by ego, claiming to be “the only one” who can help, or overstating their skills.

  2. They self-deploy, which is never done by legitimate search teams.

  3. They work alone.

  4. They use their dogs to play on people’s emotions and assumptions. As one search and rescue expert put it, “people don’t think it’s a real search unless there are dogs and helicopters.”

Robert occupies a grey area. He claims to help people the police have forgotten, people that the police don’t have time for. He points to his meager lifestyle as evidence of his pure motivations. To Robert, him doing something is better than nothing. To his detractors, Robert does more harm than good, making promises he can’t keep, and overstating his abilities.

This episode was produced by Lee Gaines and Alex Kime. It was edited by Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman. Nick White is our editor at KCRW, and Kristen Lepore is our manager at KCRW’s Independent Producer Project.

Music: The Black Spot