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

HBM030: Crickets, Cadavars, and Conventional Wisdom

This episode is a Grab-bag, it contains three segments that serve as follow-ups to the three most recent episodes of Here Be Monsters.

Part 1: Crickets on Tape

In this segment, Jeff takes apart his tape recorder and installs a knob to help him slow down the tape without using digital wizardry in attempts to de-muddy the waters after HBM029: Do Crickets Sing Hymns.  He bought some more crickets and slowed the cassette slowed down to 1/3 speed.  The results were telling, and surprising.

In that episode, we were talking about the confusion surrounding the bit of audio called God's Cricket Chorus by Jim Wilson.  In this segment we’ll clear up exactly what is known and exactly what is not about God’s Cricket Chorus and its derivative works.

Also, a correction to a mistake we made in Episode 29 about how digital audio is constructed for our ears.  In that episode we represented the final product of digital audio to be choppy, yet moving by too quick for our ears to notice its choppiness.  This is NOT the case.  In fact, digital audio is always converted back to analog before it hits our ears.  This is done with a device called a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC).  Here’s an article that explains this process very simply  (Page 4 is where the good stuff starts).  Big thanks to the two commenter s who pointed out this error.

Want to try stretching some crickets yourself?  Download this same set of cricket songs we used for the shows.

Part 2: Conventional Wisdom on the Future of the Four Humors

In HBM027: Balancing Act, Here Be Monsters producer Lina Misitzis delved into the rich history of the Four Humors, which was, for thousands of years, the way much of world understood medicine, the body and the universe as a whole.

While we never heard from Alain Touwaide in that episode, he was central to our research of traditional medicine.  He’s the director of the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions in Washington DC.

He spoke with Lina about the foggy past and likely future of Humorism. 

Part 3: The Resting Places of Medical Cadavers

In HBM028: Johnathan’s Cadaver Paintings, Johnathan Happ, a grad student at the University of Washington, visits one of the cadaver labs on campus.  He spends a lot of time there, studying the bodies, so that he can make paintings of them in his studio. 

While that episode has a lot of information about the cadaver labs themselves.  We never got the chance to talk about  what happens to those bodies after their 3 year rotation in the lab. 

So, in this segment, Jeff goes out to the Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in northern Seattle, where most of those bodies come to rest. 

Special thanks to two employees of Evergreen-Washelli who helped out with a lot of the background for this piece:  Sandy Matthie (Reception at Columbarium) and Brian Braathen (Funeral Home Manager)

Music:

The Black Spot ||| Half Ghost  <-- New!

 

HBM028: Jonathan's Cadaver Paintings

Jonathan Happ’s white lab coat and latex gloves make him look like a doctor when he stands in a room full of people. But he’s not a doctor…he’s an artist, and the people he shares this room with are all dead.

In this episode, Jonathan takes a recorder into the University of Washington’s cadaver lab and reports on what he sees, and why he draws and paints images of the bodies.

Sensitive listeners should note that this episode contains graphic (but mostly scientific) descriptions of the cadavers.

The track image is one of Jonathan's paintings. To see a larger version and a drawing of the tendons in a cadaver hand, go to HBM's facebook page

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Music from: Swamp Dog ||| Flower Petal Downpour ||| Nym ||| The Black Spot

Here Be Monsters is now a proud member of the Mule Radio Syndicate, which distributes some other really great podcasts. Check them out at MuleRadio.net.

This episode is sponsored by Squarespace, the easiest way to create a professional website. They’ve got a great deal for HBM listeners. Go to SquareSpace.com and use the promo code “monsters10” to get 10% off and a free trial.