Updated: Apr 19
Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas to those that celebrate! I hope you are all having a safe holiday season, and I wanted to deliver one more gift! As many readers know, Pagan and I are extremely influenced by the work of Greg & Dana Newkirk on the show Hellier, through their Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult, and with their dedication & passion for their paranormal community.
2020 was an extremely trying year for us all, and for that reason, we pass along our deep thanks to the entire Hellier team, the presenters at Phenomenacon, our interview guests, and our listeners for sharing love and positivity during a time we all need it most!
"Love dangerously and wear it as a talisman," - Santa, 2020
A special heartfelt thank you to Greg & Dana for this amazing chat to round out the year. Stay weird everyone!
- Kyle, Pagan, & Louie
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A NOTE ON THE TRANSCRIPTION
I admit to being a transcription novice and want to make that clear for anyone sleuthing through the comments below.
I tried to keep the text as true to the interview as possible, but I did take liberty in some areas for clarity's sake clearing out minor background banter for example. I've included rough timestamps as well for those that want to listen along (ads may vary in length making these subjective).
Kyle: Hello everybody, and welcome back to a new episode of the Chaos and Shadow podcast. My name is Kyle, and I’m joined here by my co-host, Pagan. How are you doing today?
Pagan: I’m excellent, how are you doing?
K: I’m very well because today we have some exciting guests joining us. We’d like to welcome aboard Greg & Dana Newkirk, the creators and curators of the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult, the world's only mobile paranormal museum. You may know them from the amazingly popular series Hellier as well as their appearances on Travel Channel’s Kindred Spirits, HAUNT ME, and more!
Greg & Dana, welcome to the show, good to have you both!
Greg: Thanks for having us!
K: We have been so excited to talk to you guys because Hellier really kicked Pagan and I into the mental state that we were ready to do a project on the paranormal [Chaos & Shadow]. With that being said our audience knows a lot about the show [Hellier], they’ve heard us talk about it for a while, they know how much of an impact it has had on us. So, how else could we start but talk about high strangeness and the Hellier phenomena?
K: It catapulted you guys onto our radar! We would love to talk to you about aspects of the cases that you love and really stand out to you.
K: Since the show was released in 2019, you have really touched guys at home, we’ve heard you speak about the rituals that have churned up rituals in peoples’ houses. Are there any stories or aspects of the case that you like to tell and retell? Your favorites maybe?
G: I think when it comes to Hellier… my favorite thing is the activity other people experience when they watch it. People see most of the stuff we experience. There are only one or two things that were too weird to make it into Hellier. There were a couple of things that got cut because they would take too long to explain. My favorite stories about it are the people that experience their own synchronicity. And like you were saying earlier, the amount of people that have had strange experiences and have gone on and started their own projects is what fascinates me. That speaks to whatever the weirdness around the project is. I’m more and more convinced that the project is alive somehow. And the way that it goes and touches people and sort of kickstarts their own initiations to whatever end speaks to that.
D: I would probably agree with you, Greg. The one thing that always stands out in my mind is that people share these experiences with us which I think is such a beautiful, cool thing. That they would have their own personal, meaningful experiences and yet, often those types of experiences can be laughed at or not necessarily understood by people in the general public. We are in a lucky position where people feel comfortable coming to us with these experiences they have had sometimes before, sometimes after, or during watching Hellier. It’s always just a really wonderful experience for me to have somebody feel like this person will understand my weird experience. I trust them enough and it’s a safe place for me to talk about this stuff.
K&P: That’s amazing. We love that.
K: Could we spend a minute to talk about the wonderful synchronicities that the show really builds a lot of framework around? Because for those that are approaching Hellier out of the blue. They may be looking at these groups saying, “A bunch of blue balloons. What are they smoking?”
K: But to us that have seen the series, there are just so many of these moments that click with us. Could you talk with us about the synchronicities? Are there any that the audience has reported to you? What shocked you?
G: The balloon thing is an interesting thing. I’ll talk about that first. I think a lot of people see the balloon stuff and think, “These guys are nuts!” Within the context of Hellier, it’s a huge synchronicity. Spoiler alert, but throughout the series, one of the things we keep coming back to is this guy who calls himself, Terry Wriste that very people have met or know they have met. It seems to be pointing us in the direction of a lot of Alister Crowley’s work referred to as the Star Sapphire Ritual. One of the things we come across in Season 2 that punctuates this to a point that it’s very hard to ignore is a downed tree in a very particular place with a blue star balloon deflated to the end of it. Months and months before that, a deflated balloon become an icon that we obviously were paying attention to. The idea that a blue star balloon - the sapphire ritual - blue star - that’s a pretty significant synchronicity that shows, “Ok, we’re supposed to pay attention to this thing.”
I can’t really speak to other people’s experiences with finding their own blue stars or finding their own happy birthday balloons, but I don’t think they are for me or us to find. They are for other people. Whatever that means to them, that’s great. I can see how out of context, it could seem really crazy if you haven’t seen the show.
D: I think the thing to remember too, it’s a hilarious moment in Hellier we all need to recognize. For anyone that has had the balloon moments, or synchronicities, the important thing to remember is that the balloon is a guidepost. The balloon for us, Allen Greenfield in the series says they are marker points. Don’t pay attention to the balloon but where is it leading you? Follow that direction. I think people in the wild having your own experience in the wilds, try treating them like marker points or guides! They are letting you know that you are on the road to more interesting things. I think they are there to keep pushing us.
G: To add to that, we experience a lot of synchronicities when we are really in it. There are moments when there is nothing much going on. There is a moment I can’t talk about yet because it might potentially end up in another season of Hellier.. Whenever that might be.
Somebody sent me an email about one thing that had to do with the Hellier case. They wanted a particular piece of information that I didn’t have to give them. In that email, they included a whole lot of other information. In that was a very particular word. One that word showed up in massive ways in another email from someone on the other side of the country about that particular word, just three days after that email.
Someone I had told about this, they have a particular piece of Hellier memorabilia that has that word on it. We never noticed that before and we went, “Oh we need to pay attention to this.” Things like that happen all the time. I think synchronicities on different levels happen, but I think when they are as big as a blue star, we know we are headed in the right direction.
K: That leads off to a second question I have on that, a follow-up. I know this is subjective to those that are experiencing their own synchronicities but is there a way you guys root out what might just be the pareidolia effect? Do you have your own mechanism or how do you go about handling those situations where it might seem like something is pointing you in a direction, but it’s not as much of a red flag? Or Is that more of a gut instinct?
D: I think we’re lucky, I was just going to say quickly, I think we're lucky because there are so many of us! [laughs]
That when somebody kind of...and the thing is, I think we’re pretty open and honest about this and we talk about it a lot, but the progression of this investigation has pushed us each to our own weird places.
There have definitely been times that some of us have felt something was more impactful, that it was something part of the investigation and the rest of the team maybe didn’t feel the same way.
The nice thing about that is that having all of us from the polar opposites of Connor [J Randall] to Tyler Strand, having those very different personality types, those very different investigative type personalities is a really wonderful thing. It gives us this really interesting barometer so when we all feel it at the same time, and we're all going like, "okay, ya this is definitely something that we need to pay attention to."
It’s almost like it goes through a vetting process [Greg laughs]. Like you mentioned, the longer we do it, we get more of a gut feeling, you just feel it and know. I describe it as a current. When you are in that current and following that current, you know that feeling. When you’re trying to force something, you definitely don’t feel it. When you’re not in that current, it just doesn’t flow, the synchronicities aren’t happening, a lot of little things that would normally happen.. They stop. It’s a sign, from my perspective, that is the way to know we aren’t on the right path [at the time].
G: I would add that if there is a message you’re supposed to be getting, it will hammer it until you get it. Some of the synchronicities we experience, we just blow off. We try to be skeptical of our own stuff. If we do that, it will just come through in another way. It will bang on the wall a little harder.
[About 12 minutes]
K: Wonderfully said. Speaking of some of the currents that were mentioned. We thought we would ask you about Phenomenacon. 2020 has been a year of high stress as well as strangeness. We’ve all been locked inside for the most part. We got to attend your September Phenomenacon as Museum members, and it blew us away! We saw the list of people in attendance, but there were many names we didn’t know. Since then Katie Webb has come on and chatted with us, she’s phenomenal, Michelle has joined us! We thought, how can we not discuss this?
What was it like bringing together all of those folks in an online space? Very different year, different challenges.
G: Phenomenacon started because we spend the bulk of our year with the museum traveling across the country- sometimes other countries, usually from spring to late fall/early winter, we’re on the road. As are most of our friends and colleagues. We wanted to think of a way that we could bring that conference feeling that everyone was missing, online! We put the first one together in a matter of a few weeks. We asked our friends because we knew they weren't doing anything! We said let’s do something that feels like a conference. We’ll have a digital merch table. One of the things we’re very aware of is that with a lot of these conferences, people only get one side of a story- they’re usually dedicated to cryptids or ghosts, or magic, or psychic phenomena. Those types of things don't typically crossover [at conventions], but like we talk about all the time in Hellier and our lectures, these things are all part and parcel part of the same weird thing. That’s what we believe so we wanted to put together something that accurately showed that.
At Phenomenacon, that is all the people that influence us. So all of the people that we have learned stuff from are the people we put in front of those that attend Phenomenacon. All the people that are smarter than us, we gather and try to put together.. Nothing makes us more excited than introducing people to other smart people doing really cool things that maybe people wouldnt be aware of before. It’s wonderful! It’s a dream, and we will keep doing them. Probably even after the pandemic.
K&P: Yes Please!
K: Pagan and I don’t get around to most conventions. Our lives prevent that. In the digital form, we saw tons of people in the Facebook membership group, that were super engaged and caring. The audience was so helpful. It was such a good discussion all weekend long. From the bottom of our hearts, we hope they continue! It was something special.
D: That was the cool thing that we experienced from it also. Again, being people that travel so much, we often forget that not everyone can travel to these events. The first Phenomenacon became an eye opening moment when we realized these amazing events that happen all over the world are not accessible to everyone. If you can even do a version of an online event. If you can bring some version to the internet so that people get the opportunity to attend the experiences. Realizing how valuable that is, I don't think Greg and I could ever not include the online component to our future events. It feels like the way it’s supposed to be from this point forward.
P: One of the things that was so great. It gives us opportunities that we haven't seen. I’ve been to physical conventions but never to an online one. It was exciting to have that convention feel without having to leave my house! It was spectacular!
K: PJs and everything!
P: Curled up with the dogs, got the coffee, everything you need right there, listening to some of the coolest people ever.
G: That’s the way to do it!
[Possible ad break approx 17 minutes]
K: To dwell on it for a second, I really like the point you made a second ago, Greg. The way the event is structured thematically throughout the weekend. You’ve set a bar with the Hellier phenomena that many of us are now addicted to! We love the crossing over of topics. We have to connect the dots.
In telling those stories, how did you go about deciding the phenomena theme? Was there a mandate or theme you had given the presenters before the convention?
G: Not really! That was the beauty of it. The theme, the troughline, sets itself. I think when you have these people next to each other and you have them speaking one right after another. You can have someone speaking about magic, someone speaking about synchronicities, folklore, ghosts, ufos, whatever! If you have the right people, you’re gunna automatically notice, “Oh wow! What this person is saying is a lot like what this person is saying!” My favorite things about Phenomenacon was almost selfishly, how many of the people speaking were able to use Hellier as an example of what they were talking about. And they were all talking about different things. They are the people that inform our research for Hellier and our research personally. Every single person you see there, I have their books on my shelves. We don’t bring guests because we think they will sell tickets, we bring people so the audience will learn something from every speaker, it’s something they can incorporate in how they see the world. Especially if they are a paranormal investigator that has never considered bigfoot a paranormal thing [ghost/alien] that the person has never seen as anything but an ape.
I don’t want to tell people the way that I think something is. Phenomenacon is a way to line up these wonderful resources and let people do the work! They are people that have made an impression on our work.
K: Wow! I would have sworn you had given them a theme or throughline! It makes total sense, but from a planning perspective, you would imagine it was a theme!
When we had Michelle Belanger on here, like you said, she kept using Hellier as a reference. She said you guys set the bar higher for all shows into the future!
G&D: Oh wow!
D: Awe, that’s so nice! [laughs] so much pressure!
G: Oh lord! Don’t hold it against us!
K: If we can dwell on the idea for a second, what all is going on behind the scenes? The paramuseum is massive, and just yesterday [December 14] you released an update on acquisitions. I don’t know how public you have that, but could you tease us a bit?
G: We have our tendrils out all over the place. I think a lot of people because of the community that we are in, people assume we focus on Haunted Objects ,but that’s not really the case. We’ll be the first to say Haunt Objects aren’t easy to come by. You can’t just go to Ebay…
K: Wait, Greg, I can’t buy a dybbuk box on Ebay? [laughs] bad question!
G: Only if you’re a sucker that hates money! [laughs] Most of what we do actually, we’re always seeking out items of historical significance to the history of paranormal research, cryptozoology, ufology, things like that. We have pieces of Betty Hill’s dress, one of the most famous alien abductees. They were pieces studied by a lab that couldn't figure out what happened to it. There are things related to famous paranormal investigators, a lot of pieces from the hellier case, one of the things we were recently able to acquire are the files related to the biggest expeditions in search of the Lochness Monster and the “living dinosaur,” MOKELE-MBEMBE 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, that belonged to Dr. Roy P. Makel. He was a really influential figure in the history of cryptozoology. These are files that contain everything from hand drawn maps to original photo negatives of Loch Ness evidence, MOKELE-MBEMBE evidence, one of the things I think are the coolest are the letters and correspondence with his peers in the field. They are as interesting as planning expeditions, what it would cost to do these expeditions, what television networks wanted to follow them on the expeditions, and even frustrations with other researchers and frustrations with television producers, in particular some television series that are still on the air or have recently come back on the air that most people would never know. These are materials that people haven't seen ever outside of a really small handful of people, and these were just sitting in a garage somewhere.
D: That’s the sad part too. The thing we see and hear so often: all of this amazing history, paranormal history, it gets destroyed or forgotten, possibly like Greg said, sitting in someone’s garage somewhere deteriorating. There are so many stories about all of this amazing stuff that should be at the least, we believe, in a museum.
When we spoke to Tanya Derenberger, she offhandedly told us that a lot of her father’s stuff, Woody Derenberger, most of his stuff had been destroyed. It became a focus of trying to find those things so that we can preserve that history and share it with further generations and people in general. There’s so much of it out there, it’s a matter of trying to find it.
K: You’re right! Having worked at a historical society, myself at one point, it is true how much gets thrown away because family lineages don’t have a need for it, don't understand it, [Dana agrees], or it sits in a garage and gets moldy.
It’s a good time to toss in a question we got from Allison Gunn on Twitter. They work in a museum and want to know if you have plans for preserving the haunted objects? Any idea what you might do when the objects get older and needs preservation [restoration] work?
G: That’s always in the back of our heads and something we’re trying to futureproof for. One of the biggest things right now - we aren’t in a brick & mortar right now - after 2020, thank god! We’re strictly a traveling museum. There is stuff that even over the past five years that we’ve been doing the museum as much as we have, there is just stuff that is too fragile to travel with anymore. A lot of that stuff gets carefully packed up and preserved until we can find someone that can restore it or until we have a permanent location that we can keep it in a place that is temperature & climate controlled under a glass case.
One of the things we love to do is have people handle the stuff. As the museum has [in members] grown and we’ve gotten rarer pieces, a lot of that stuff you can’t have people handling too much because of the oil from their skin, and things like that. It’s always in the back of our head. The amount of stuff that we travel with is such a small percentage of the actual collection, so there is plenty of stuff that we just logistically can't travel with because of how fragile or rare it is. That stuff stays in climate control storage until we have a brick & mortar, where we can preserve it and protect it while still displaying it in the way that it needs to be.
D: One of the things we’ve also been really focused on over the past couple of years, it’s something we’re looking forward to having more time to digitally archiving a lot of the objects in the museum. Having them somewhere online so that, again about the conversations about Phenomenacon, people that can’t travel will still have the opportunity to see that stuff.
We originally started with the 3D scanning initiative. It's something we’re going to continue doing but folding it into the idea of digitally archiving as much as possible so that it can exist online so people will still have the opportunity to check it out!
K: That clip we got to see of Billy being 3D scanned - that stays in the mind!
G: Ya! We started the 3D scanning project a few years ago, and realized very quickly - something we maybe should have realized at the beginning - trying to 3d scan haunted objects comes with some difficulties. I don’t think our technology was quite there yet! We’re going to revisit it eventually, but man what a frustrating pain in the butt that was! [laughs]
K: Sticking with the idea of a future brick & mortar, Dana, we know that your Magic of the Month is/was HIGHLY requested! I remember you were opening spots live over that [Phenomenacon] weekend. Could you talk to folks out there about it? I’m sure you have a line queueing up, but why not add more names to it?
D: Ya! Magic of the Month is a monthly ritual subscription box that I had make. It started with the idea of having something handmade and curated that was also hands on. Every month, I try to come up with a ritual that most people can engage with. I always suggest people add their own flare to it and make it their own. The idea is that I hand create and curate everything you would need for that month's ritual. I send handwritten - well not hand written -It’d be crazy if I did handwritten - I'd be there forever, and it would be so sloppy at the end! [laughs]! I send instructions on how to do the ritual, I give everybody an outline for how to do the ritual, and then every month we do online classes and talk about the ritual. We talk about magic, and it’s really a way to get people practicing magic. One of the things when I started practicing magic about 20 years ago, it can be a scary thing to take your first steps out into that space. Even for the people that have been Magic of the Month members, they are also people that have been practicing for 20-30 years. Sometimes it’s just nice for someone to create and craft something for you to just jump into. I wanted it to be wonderful for newbies and those just getting into magic, but also people that have been practicing for 20-30 years. It was meant to be this very hands-on experience every single month for you to get to know magic and how it works in your life. Just how much more magic you can bring into your month. It has been a labor of love. I’ve been doing it for over three years now - it’s super fun, and it has taught me a lot about magic. It has taught me about my own spiritual journey and it has been a really beautiful thing to see so many different people stepping into their magic space and going for it! I love that so much!
P: That is amazing!
K: We have seen phenomenal responses on Twitter. People sharing some of their ritual work afterwords, like you just said, myself not much of a magic practitioner until recently, it has such a high barrier to entry for some folks [Dana: Sure, ya!]. We get people that come from religiously restrictive backgrounds, they might be afraid to go into this world without some kind of guide. How has that been for you, Dana? We’ve seen people refer to you as a teacher or guide.
D: I think the interesting thing, from my own experience, it has been very humbling. I say that because looking into the world of magic or the occult or any one of those spaces can often feel very intimidating because of some of the voices that are some of the loudest voices. It can also be intimidating because there can be a lot of gatekeeping in those spaces. For me, my focus has always been, like we said with Phenomenacon, bringing people to the information, sharing what I know with people, and then empowering people to make it their own and go, run in the direction that feels good for them. It has been a very humbling and cool experience. I think of myself more of maybe a guide helping people find the confidence to really embrace it as much as they are comfortable. It has been a really, really cool experience.
P: I love it so much!
K: So, when it comes to upcoming projects, you’ve announced some really, really cool things. Maybe I’ll go first to this one about Kindred Spirits because it might have a bit of a tie-in, but I hear you guys are in the premiere on January 2nd, I believe?
G: We’re a very big part of an episode they are doing that’s a direct continuation of the Haunted Salem Live special that Travel Channel did in Halloween of 2019. But they had us come on, and I think much to the network’s surprise, we did a very big interactive intention sigil ritual with viewers did a magic ritual on live television which has never been done before. It worked really well and freaked all of the production out.
D: They were like, “Wait a second, magic actually works?!” [laughs]
G: [laughs] At the end of it, that was it.. It was time to go home. We all felt like we didn’t finish what we started there. So Amy Bruni and Adam Berry are executive producers of the show and just kept asking