HBM095: The Bats that Stay

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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

HBM067: Dispatches From PestWorld 2016

Feeling anxiety about the American presidential election, HBM host Jeff Emtman took a trip to a place he hoped to be insulated from politics: PestWorld 2016, the largest American gathering of pest management professionals. Jeff has always liked bugs and pest animals, so it was a miniature vacation.

He talked with the following attendees about the tools and the philosophy of pest management:

Rose Eckhart of ZappBugg bed bug heaters
Carlita Turk of TAP Pest Control Insulation
David Walters of HY-C Home Solutions
Evan Bruce of Heat Assault glycol bed bug products
Roger Johnson and Evan Church of Pest Routes
Sheree Swindle of Bed Bug Mutts with Lily Loo
Bill Robinson of B&G Curtis Dyna-Fog sprayers and foggers
Alan Huot of Wildlife Control Supplies outfitter for wildlife professionals

Rose Eckhart of ZappBug explains the basics of bedbug infestations.

The Golden Eagle mosquito fogger from Curtis Dynafog.

Alan Huot of Wildlife Control Supplies demos wildlife baits.

Jeff Emtman produced this episode with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White.

Music: Serocell | | | Flowers

HBM060: The Predators of McNeil Island

Content Note: This episode is largely about sexual violence towards children.  Most of the descriptions throughout the audio are clinical, but one description from our court recordings is particularly graphic and disturbing.  Keep this in mind, especially if you are listening within earshot of children. 

McNeil Island sits in Washington State's Puget Sound, just three miles northwest of Steilacoom. For much of its existence, the island served as a fishing outpost for indigenous coastal people. But for the last 150-odd years, McNeil Island has been a place to house society's undesirables.  Soon after white settlers claimed it in the 1850s, they built a prison there--Charles Manson served a stint there, long before his infamous Hollywood killing spree.  At that point, McNeil Island was a sustainable community that consisted of the prison staff and their family members. There were houses, an elementary school and a graveyard.

But the world changed, and the island prison became too expensive to operate. In 2011 the prison closed, the inmates were relocated, and the staff moved to the mainland.

But by then, McNeil Island had sprouted a different kind of facility, also nested inside razor wire. It wasn't a prison, but its residents weren't exactly free to leave.

McNeil Island's abandoned prison is visible from the city of Steilacoom, Washington.


It was a late summer morning in 1989 when Washington Governor Booth Gardner came to work at the state capital to find thousands of empty tennis shoes dumped at the capital steps. The shoes were left there by demonstrators calling for harsher punishments for sex offenders.  The group did it in response to several gruesome crimes that had happened earlier that year; crimes which the activists argued were enabled by lax sentencing laws and early releases for violent prisoners. The group called themselves the Tennis Shoe Brigade, and the shoes they brought were meant to represent the forgotten victims of rape. Their action prompted Governor Gardner to assemble the Task Force on Community Protection.

Booth Gardener, the former Governor of Washington State spoke highly of the Task Force on Community Protection during his 1990 State of the State Address.

That fall, as the Governor Gardner's task force deliberated, serial child rapist Westley Allen Dodd raped and murdered three young boys in Vancouver, Washington.  Despite Dodd's long criminal history of child molestation, he never served a full prison sentence for his crimes. Even Dodd himself felt the legal system had failed him and his victims, telling one reporter, "If you add up all the prison time I was given but never made to serve, I'd be in prison until 2026... and those boys would still be alive."   Dodd wrote a pamphlet advising children on how to avoid violent sex offenders like him.

In the wake of Dodd's crimes, the task force penned the Community Protection Act of 1990. This act required law enforcement to keep a sex offender registry, and allowed for the civil commitment of Sexually Violent Predators, or SVPs.  This meant that this special class of sex offenders could be legally and indefinitely detained after they'd served their criminal sentences if the court deemed them likely (aka. more than 50% likely) to re-offend, if released into the public.  But, per the law, civil commitment would be rehabilitative, not punitive, and therefore wouldn't violate double jeopardy. The act passed into law RCW 71.09 also known as the Sexually Violent Predator law.

In order for a sex offender to be deemed an SVP in Washington, they must meet three criteria:

     1) They must have been convicted or charged of a sexually violent crime.

     2) They must be suffer from a "personality disorder" or a "mental abnormality", and

     3) That condition must make them likely to commit predatory acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility.

In Washington State, that secure facility is the Special Commitment Center (SCC) on McNeil Island.   It's not a prison–it's a treatment facility administrated by Washington State's Department of Social and Health Services.   They told us that 242 people are confined on McNeil Island as of publish date.  

There have been two supreme court challenges to Washington's SVP law (other states have challenged too).  One plaintiff claimed inadequate treatment, the other claimed they were serving a second prison term.  Both times, the court ruled in favor of Washington's law.   


This episode is about a man named Chris.  To protect him, his family and his victims, we're only referring to him by first name. 

Throughout his life, Chris has received a number of diagnoses, including:

Doctors prescribed him a number of psychotropics to meant to calm his symptoms, including:

According to court documents, Chris was nine years old when he started molesting his younger siblings in the mid 1980s. Eventually he started molesting other children in the neighborhood, and even had sexual contact with one of the family dogs.  The documents say that In 1995, at age 16, Chris was caught with a 12 year old neighbor boy who he'd pinned down; both boys were naked from the waist down and Chris had either penetrated the boy with his penis or had inserted it between the boys legs (records vary).  By the time he was convicted, further questioning established that Chris had forced sexual contact on other children hundreds of times, including his younger siblings. He was sent to juvenile detention for two years, where he stayed until he was 18.  He was released on parole. 

Within a few months of his release, Chris checked himself into an inpatient mental health facility in Seattle for a psych evaluation.  Court documents say that Chris kissed up to three other residents during his stay, and later asked staff repeatedly for contact information for one of the women. He started telling staff of his violent sexual fantasies about rape.  The documents also say he disclosed fantasies about having sex with human organs and body parts, as well as fantasies about having sex with large sea and land mammals.

Given his history of forced sexual contact and the graphic and deviant nature of his fantasies, the hospital staff filed a petition to have Chris classified as an SVP. He was given a number of tests to measure the severity of his sexual deviance. One of these tests was a penile plethysmegraph (PPG) in which they wrapped a pressure-sensitive, plastic band around Chris's penis and measured his arousal to sexual visual and audio stimuli. He was also analyzed through an actuarial tool called the Static 99R which attempts to statistically predict a sex offender's chance of recidivism.  Near the time of his commitment, one of the doctors analyzing Chris wrote this:

"Christopher clearly presents an extremely high risk of sexual assault of younger or vulnerable persons of either sex…Under no circumstances should he return to live with his family now or in the foreseeable future."

As a result, the SVP unit of the King County prosecutors' office drew up an SVP petition for Chris. This document would designate Chris as an SVP and send him to live indefinitely at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. However, Chris would be allowed to challenge his civil commitment in front of a jury of his peers.  And when he did so, the burden of proof would be on the state to prove that Chris continued to meet SVP criteria.

Soon after he got to the island, Chris said he changed.  Nearly immediately, he requested to take a "medication holiday" (see sidebar).  According to documents written by his lawyers, soon after he stopped taking the medications, the most egregious fantasies dissipated. He describes being on the medications as being in a mental fog, as if he were drunk. He does not claim that his offenses were a result of being overly medicated, but he does believe his inhibition was lowered. By the second year of his commitment, Chris stopped attending group therapy with the other SCC residents.  He says that by then he no longer experienced deviant fantasies, and that recounting his offenses week after week was not conducive to his recovery.  We found no evidence that he's sexually assaulted anyone since arriving on the island. 

In late 2016, per the stipulation he signed, Chris received a trial for his unconditional release. One of his attorneys, Andrew Morrison, contacted us to see if we were interested in attending the trial.  We said "yes." 

A month-long juried trial ensued.  After a day of deliberation, the jury's verdict was unanimously against the State of Washington.  They failed to prove that Chris continued to meet the definition of an SVP.  On March 17th, 2016, Chris was released from the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island.   According to Andrew Morrison, Chris registered as a Level 2 sex offender shortly after his release, as was required of him.  

The topic of recidivism for sex offenders is hotly contested, since sex crimes are often unreported and good data for long-term recidivism is sparse.  However, some of the best numbers we have come from a report put together by the Office of Justice Programs.  They reported that compared to other criminals, sex offenders are re-arrested at significantly lower rates.  They also report that after three years after a sex offender's release, five percent were re-arrested a sexual crime.  After 15 years, 24% were re-arrested for another sex crime.

One of several patrol boats that puttered around Steilacoom Ferry Dock.

An empty boat meant for transporting vehicles at the Steilacoom Ferry Dock.


It's been almost 26 years since the Community Protection Act of 1990 paved the road to civil commitment laws in 20 states and the District of Columbia (see graphic earlier in this article). In 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which instated a federal system of civil commitment.

In 2015, an advocacy group called Disability Rights Washington drafted a lawsuit against the SCC on McNeil Island. They claim that the SCC fails to provide adequate treatment for mentally disabled residents, making commitment there more punitive than rehabilitative. This claim is backed by a 2013 Washington State Institute for Public Policy Report that cites that special needs residents were receiving just 2 hours of treatment per week in 2011. 

That same WSIPP report cites that the cost of Special Commitment Center is roughly $150,000 per resident, per year (and significantly more for those in transitional programs).  The center received $47,609,000 in the 2013 state budget.  Civil commitment at the SCC is roughly five times more expensive than incarceration in a Washington State prison. 


Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton produced this piece.  George Lavender fact-checked the audio for this story.  Nick White did content editing. 

People who appear on tape:

  • Bethany Denton - Host

  • Jeff Emtman - Host

  • Andrew Morrison - One of Chris's Defense Attorneys

  • Chris - Former SVP

  • Jennifer Ritchie - King County Prosecutor's Head of the Sexually Violent Predator Unit

  • Alison Bogar - King County Prosecutor

  • Bill Bowman - Judge

  • Dr. Harry Goldberg - Expert for Prosecutors

  • Dr. Joseph Plaud - Expert for Defenders

  • Dr. Holly Coryell - SCC's Head of Clinical Treatment

People who did not appear on tape, but provided background information:

  • Christine Sanders - Chris's other defense attorney

  • Kristen Richardson - King County Prosecutor

  • Chris Wright - Communications for Washington's Department of Social and Health Services

For this story, we were originally granted permission to visit the island to interview Dr. Coryell and Chris.  However, that permission was revoked because our scheduled date happened to coincide with Chris's release date.  The SCC was unwilling to reschedule us.  Mark Strong, the CEO of the SCC declined our request for an interview.  

Music: The Black Spot

Photos: Jeff Emtman

 

This episode marks the end of our 4th season of shows.  We'll be back soon. Please stay in touch via facebook, twitter, and email

Trains regularly pass by the Steilacoom Ferry Dock. This one carries military equipment. Presumably, this shipment is bound for nearby Fort Lewis.

Close-up of the abandoned prison on McNeil Island.

Close-up of the abandoned prison on McNeil Island.

HBM052: Call 601-2-SATAN-2

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Christian prayer hotlines are common in the United States. Less common are prayer hotlines for the other guy.  Since 2012, the Satanic Missionary Society in Olympia, Washington has managed a Satanic prayer line on their blog and receive prayer requests from people all over the country.  They ask for help with things like miscarriage, a romantic affair with a mother-in-law, a successful rap career, and more.

Content Note: Explicit Content

Among those callers is Tyler Higgins, a young man from New England asking for Satanic prayers to get into The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (aka. AMDA), his dream acting school. But Tyler was raised a Seventh Day Adventist.  And his whole life, his pastors and parents told him that all popular actors sold their souls to Satan in exchange for fame and success. With that in mind, Tyler researches Satanism online and found the Satanic Missionary Society and their prayer line. Desperate to follow his dream of acting, Tyler calls and asks for Satan's help to get into AMDA. A few weeks later, his devout Christian parents stumbled upon email exchanges between Tyler and the Satanic mission. They call the pastor over immediately to perform an exorcism.

The Satanic Prayer Hotline was started by a man who calls himself "The Anti-Chris" in Olympia, Washington. It is no longer active, but you can still hear the entire archive of prayer requests. And if you're feeling frisky, you can purchase a one-of-a-kind Faustian Bargain kit, including tools and instructions on how to sell your soul to the Prince of Darkness himself.

Below are varying depictions of hell and Satan.  Click images to enlarge and read about their origins.

Special thanks to The Anti-Chris, Ashlee the Blind Satanist and Lillith Starr for their help on this episode. 

This episode was produced by Bethany Denton with editing help from Jeff Emtman. Our editor at KCRW is Nick White.

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Music by The Black Spot ||| Serocell ||| Swamp Dog

HBM039: A Goddamn Missionary

Terry Crowley understands that he is an imperfect hero. But his efforts to help people in crisis are made possible by his ability to speak their language. That's because Terry himself has Bipolar Disorder and has been treated five times for thinking he was Jesus.

But Terry, who splits his time between the small town of Hoquiam, Washington and Seattle, knows that keeping his delusions in check will mean the success of his mission to help his friends and family and the "crazies" on the street that he checks in with.

The simple fact is that people who live on the street are more likely to have mental illnesses. PBS has a good factsheet about the knowns and unknowns of homelessness

In this episode of Here Be Monsters, Terry often refers to Manic Depression, a condition that, per the DSM-5, has been reclassified as Bipolar Disorder.

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy levels, memory, concentration, sleep, sex drive, appetite and self esteem.

The causes of Bipolar Disorder are unknown, but it's thought to be hereditary.

Bipolar Disorder can disrupt personal and professional relationships, but it is treatable. Therapy, medication, support networks can help mitigate its negative impacts.

Bipolar Disorder often goes undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or untreated. If you experience symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, or know someone who does, help is available.

More information about Bipolar Disorder from the National Institute of Mental Health

If you're feeling suicidal, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US, at 1-800-273-TALK

For help outside of the US, here is a list of suicide prevention hotlines for almost every country


This episode was produced by Jeff Emtman with help from our Producer in Training, Grant Shprintz, and our story editor, Bethany Denton.

Music on the show from: Phantom Fauna ||| The Black Spot ||| Lucky Dragons

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