Here Be Monsters Podcast

The Podcast About the Unknown

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

Lying in a Stranger's Grave

Carlos Gemora loved the feeling of the dirt at the cemetary where he used to dig graves.  One day he climbed down into the loamy, silty soil and looked up at the sky.  It felt like a womb... a death womb. 

This piece was produced by Alex Kime and Jeff Emtman, with support from Bethany Denton. Our editor at KCRW is Nick White.

Music by Nym and Lucky Dragons 

HBM036: Throw It In The Ocean [EXPLICIT]

Eric Chase's memory of April 19th, 1989 is largely a blur. On that day, he was aboard the USS Iowa, a World War 2 era battleship, equipped with some of the world's biggest cannons, capable of leveling a city block with a single hit.

But April 19th, 1989 was the day when one of the 16 inch guns aboard the ship malfunctioned and caused a huge internal explosion that claimed the lives of 47 sailors and caused a huge fire on the ship.

Eric Chase was one of the responders who ventured into the turret to recover bodies, or, well, in this case, parts of bodies. In this episode of Here Be Monsters, Eric describes his experience inside the turret, putting organic material into garbage bags, wading through the destruction. He describes how it awakened a contradiction between his sense of duty and his sense of dissatisfaction with the Naval chain of command and policy. Needless to say, if you're easily offended by descriptions of dead bodies, then you should not listen to this episode.

At the time of her commissioning in 1943, the USS Iowa was one of the world's most formidable war machines.  3 other similar ships, the USS New Jersey, the USS Wisconsin, and the USS Missouri were built at the same time.  They had an illustrious history fighting in WWII.

In the video below, the Iowa displays her absolutely devastating firepower not long after her maiden voyage.

As Word War 2 wound down, the USS Iowa was decommissioned / mothballed.  However, as part of President Reagan's 600 Ship Navy plan during the Cold War, the Iowa was brought back from mothballs, despite its age. 

Off the coast of Puerto Rico, during a 16-inch gunnery exercise on April 19th, 1989, something went critically wrong, and Turret 2 suffered a massive explosion.

The turret explosion was captured by a camera mounted in one of the USS Iowa's towers.

Australian news report on the USS Iowa turret explosion (1989)

In the investigation that followed the explosion, the navy blamed Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Hartwig, saying that he had been jilted by a his homosexual lover, another sailor on the ship named Kendall Truitt.  The Navy claimed that the explosion was a result of Hartwig's suicidal attack on the Iowa.

Hartwig's family made congress conduct another study, being convinced neither that he was gay, nor that he was suicidal.  The congressional investigation, headed up by the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that the aging powderbags on the ship, combined with the fact that guns were being over-rammed with extra powder, likely caused a spontaneous explosion while the back of the gun was still open, shooting a massive fireball into the turret. 

The Navy re-opened their investigation and concluded that the cause was unable to be determined.  However, they did admit to fabricating the evidence against Hartwig.

Even today, the two reports still contradict one another.


This episode was produced by Alex Kime a writer and sound engineer based in Chicago. He also produced Fugitives of the Blue Laguna, which aired on Here Be Monsters earlier this season.

Jeff Emtman is HBM's Lead Producer.  Bethany Denton is HBM's Story Editor.

Music
Phantom Fauna
Serocell
Swamp Dog
Olecranon Rebellion

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HBM032: Fugitives of the Blue Laguna

Back when David was a nerdy Oklahoman teenager, he fell in love with Stephanie. They both had angst towards their overbearing, conservative parents and they both wanted out.

So, when the opportunity presented itself, they decided to run for it. They took David's blue 1976 Chevy Laguna and as much money as they could find and started driving to Portland to start a new life.

Stephanie's mom found out and hired a private investigator. She told the PI to break David's arms if he ever caught up with them.

So, they drove across the United States binge-listening to the the only cassette they had: The Cure's Standing on the Beach Singles.

They get arrested for stealing condoms and deodorant, they learn how to sweet-talk free food out of Taco Bell, and they create fake identities for themselves.

David and Stephanie make it to Boise, Idaho, where they move in with a bunch of Mormon punk rockers and assume a new life.

And then they find out the FBI's involved. Suddenly David's facing 30 years of prison time for kidnapping and statutory rape. And, what started as an adventure, turns into something really serious, really fast.

This week's show was co-produced and recorded by a good friend of HBM, Alex Kime. He's a writer and sound engineer living in Chicago, Illinois.

Original music on the show from Justin LaForte and Lucky Dragons

David now works as a professor of Sociology in Washington State at a community college, where lives with his wife (not Stephanie) and daughter. He was one of the founding members of the Infernal Noise Brigade.

This episode is sponsored by SquareSpace. Go to squarespace.com and use the code "monsters" to get 10% off your new website.