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The Worker's Cauldron

Author: David Roddy& Mercedas Castillo

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A podcast about the cultural politics of the paranormal. Where Karl Marx shakes his fist at the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot speaks to us about the legacies of colonialism. We discuss the contemporary obsession with all things supernatural through a socialist, feminist lens and ask what our strange experiences and beliefs tell us about the society we live in.

41 Episodes
There is a peculiar phantom rumored to haunt the rural roads of the South American Andes. The pishtaco takes the form of a tall, well-dressed white man who steals the fat from the bodies of the region's indigenous inhabitants. We explore how this monster was born out of the horrors of colonization and how it recreates itself throughout the history of Peru as the personification of oppression.Sources:Mary Weismantel, Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the AndesErnesto Vasquex Del Aguila, Pishtacos: Human Fat Murderers, Structural Inequalities and Resistances in PeruAnthony Oliver-Smith, The Pishtaco: Institutionalized Fear in Highland PeruPeter Gose, Sacrifice and the Commodity Form in the Andes The Guardian: Gang 'killed victims to extract their fat'Time,  Peru's Fat-Stealing Gang: Crime or Cover-Up?Democracy Now: Peruvian Police Accused of Massacring Indigenous Protesters in Amazon JungleSupport the show
Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier's administration was portrayed as a "Voodoo Dictatorship" by the Western press due to his tense relationship with the Catholic Church and his conflicting approach to the nation's Vodou beliefs. However, the claims of his political use of the religion's spirits and beliefs are based on shaky foundations. On this episode of The Worker's Cauldron, we try to shift through competing claims in an attempt to uncover the true history Haiti's right-wing dictator.Sources:David Nicholls,  From Dessalines to Duvalier: Race, Colour and National Independence in HaitiJohn Cussans, Undead Uprising: Haiti, Horror and The Zombie ComplexMichel-Rolph Trouillot, Haiti, State Against Nation: Origins and Legacy of DuvalierismMichel S. Laguerre, Voodoo and Politics in HaitiRobert Lawless, Haiti's Bad Press: Origins, Development, and ConsequencesKate Ramsay, The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in HaitiTampa Bay Times: Haiti’s Recognition of Voodoo Brings New Freedom to FaithfulWhicker’s World: Papa Doc: The Black SheepSupport the show
Focusing on the years between American military occupation and the dictatorship of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier in Haiti, the Workers Cauldron Podcast examines the ways in which Haitian literary groups represented the African diaspora religion of Vodou. After being moved by indiginisme, an ethnological movement to ground Haitian identity in its African past,  future dictator Francois Duvalier helped to organize a group of black nationalist or noiriste writers called Les Griots who rebelled against the enlightenment principles of republican democracy.Sources:David Nicholls: Politics and Religion in Haiti  From Dessalines to Duvalier: Race, Colour and National Independence in Haiti  Ideology and Political Protest in Haiti, 1930-46John Cussans: Undead Uprising: Haiti, Horror and The Zombie ComplexMichel-Rolph Trouillot: Haiti, State Against Nation: Origins and Legacy of DuvalierismMichel S. Laguerre: Voodoo and Politics in HaitiMathew J. Smith: Red and Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change, 1934-1957Support the show
In the final episode of our 2022 season, we discuss the rise of a bizarre cryptid popularly called The Dogman. We explore the works of the late great Linda Godfrey, who passed away on November 27 of this year, and her role in popularizing Wisconsin’s Beast of Bray Road and the Michigan Dogman. Over the last decade, the monster has grown from humble rural origins into a cryptid of international fame.Linda Godfrey: The Beast of Bray Road: Tailing Wisconsin's WerewolfReal Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America"The Gable Film"Yorkshire Post: '˜Truth' behind those sightings of Hull's Beast of Barmston Drain werewolfMonsterquest: America’s Wolfman Caught on FilmPBS: The Beast of Bray RoadMichael Barkun: A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary AmericaNeal Arnold: Monster!: The A-Z of Zooform PhenomenaDiane E. Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, Jeannie B. Thomas: Haunting Experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary FolkloreHauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary PerspectivesSupport the show
We continue our journey into the intersections of gay liberation and the neopagan movements with a discussion of Eddie Buczynski  a young witch, brought under the wing of famed gay witch Leo Martello, who founded the Minoan Brotherhood--combining what he believed to be ancient goddess worship with a new mystery cult for gay men. We then discuss the pagan turn of Arthur Evans, formerly the strategist for the Gay Activist Alliance, with the 1978 publication of Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture. Finally, we dive into the Radical Faeries, organized by gay rights pioneer Harry Hay, who sought to create a new, gay spirituality. We also our joined by Lisa Grimm of the Beer Ladies Podcast to talk about Margaret Murray and the witch cult hypothesis.SourcesMargot Adler, Drawing Down the MoonMichael Lloyd, Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski & the Rise of the New York PaganArthur Evans, Witchcraft and the Gay CounterculturePeter Hennen, Faeries, Bears, and Leathermen: Men in Community Queering the MasculineStuart Timmons, The Trouble With Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay MovementSupport the show
The Chupacabra is undoubtedly one of the most well known cryptids. It is a recent monster, emerging in Puerto Rico only in 1995. We discuss what was going on in Puerto Rico in the 1990s, the spread of the Chupacabra to Mexico after the North American Free Trade Agreement where it merged with President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and how it became associated with both coyotes suffering from mange and immigrants in the 2000s.We are joined by Brenda Salguero and Dr. Orquidea of the podcast Monstras: Latinx Monsters and Folklore, Dr. William Calvo-Quirós, author of “Sucking Vulnerability: Neoliberalism, the Chupacabras, and the Post-Cold War Years,” and Dr. Ed Guimont of the Impossible Archive podcast.Bonus: The time a teddy bear was victimized by El Chupacabra, Scully and Mulder get problematic, and kangaroo chihuahuas ReferencesWilliam Calvo-Quiros: “Sucking Vulnerability: Neoliberalism, the Chupacabras, and the Post-Cold War Years”Robert Jordan Michael: “El Chupacabra: Icon of Resistance to U.S. Imperialism”Lauren Derby: “Imperial Secrets: Vampires and Nationhood in Puerto Rico”Silvia Rodriguez Vega: “Chupacabras: The Myth of the Bad Immigrant”Scott Corrales: Night of the ChupacabrasThe 1996 "Chupacabra Homepage"Asher Elbein: Chasing the Chupacabra, A Lonestar LegendBenjamin Radford: Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and FolkloreJoe Bandy: Bordering the Future: Resisting Neoliberalism in the BorderlandsSupport the show
This week we take a look at the strange moving statues phenomenon that attracted hundreds of thousands of Irish Catholics to shrines across the country in the summer of 1985. The moving statues were part the bleak social landscape of Ireland in the 1980s, and a series of scandals leading up to that summer ignited something of a social movement that politicized the alleged miracles.We are joined by Victoria Anne Pearson of University College Cork and Cian Gill of the Wide Atlantic Weird Podcast who help contextualize the strange occurrences.  J. Ryan and T. Kirakowski, Ballinspittle, Moving Statues and Faith  Sharon Tighe-Mooney,  Irreconcilable differences?: The fraught relationship between women and the Catholic Church in IrelandNell McCafferty, A Woman to Blame: the Kerry Babies CaseMichael Allen, From men, to women, to children: some changing paradigms in the anthropological understanding of religionSupport the show
This week we follow the tracks of the mysterious Yeren, aka "China's Bigfoot," and discuss how revolutionary Chinese scientists have grappled with the development of a “people’s science” as it relates to the country's enigmatic cryptid.Bonus material: The taste of Bigfoot meatSigrid Schmalzer: The People’s Peking Man: Popular Science and Human Identity in Twentieth-Century ChinaLauren Chen: Dreamers, crackpots or realists? The diehards on the trail of China’s ‘Bigfoot’The legend of the Wild Man is alive and well and transforming remote villages in northwest China into booming tourist townsBigfoot and the Yeren: A dialogue with Joshua Blu Buhs and Sigrid SchmalzerScience for the PeopleSupport the show
How a select group of explorers and scientists from the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of Mongolia came to believe that a species of primitive, human-like creatures called Almas or Almasty haunted the mountains of Central Asia.  Also, we interview Dr. Ed Guimont on the role socialist science fiction may have had on a leader of the Soviet expedition to find the Yeti. Check out his podcast, The Impossible Archive, here.SourcesBoris Porshnev, The Soviet SasquatchArtemy Magun, Boris Porshnev's Dialectic of HistoryTranslated Essays from  Porshnev, Koffman, and Damdin at the Relict Hominoid Inquiry Ingvar Svanberg and Sabira Ståhlberg, Wildmen in Central AsiaEdina Dallos, Albasty: A Female Demon of Turkic PeoplesMonstertalk, The Zana ProblemSupport the show
A Haunted House Christmas

A Haunted House Christmas


In our season 3 finally, we pay homage to the great tradition of Christmas Ghost stories by looking into the haunted house. Jumping off from classic gothic literature and the wave of supernatural horror movies at the dawn of neoliberalism, we dive into the popularity of haunted house stories in modern reality television. We discuss the frightening undercurrents of domestic violence, the re-entrenchment of “traditional” gender roles, and the horrors of unstable housing markets.Bonus: Some LEGO facts, possessed bowels, Cedric JamesonSources for our most reference heavy episode yet (sorry):Avery Gordon: Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological ImaginationJulia Leyda, “Demon Debt: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY as Recessionary Post-Cinematic Allegory" in Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century FilmDiane Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, Jeannie B Thomas, Haunting Experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary FolkloreDale Bailey: American Nightmares: The Haunted House Formula in American Popular FictionAnnette Hill, Paranormal Media: Audience, Spirits and Magic in Popular CultureDrew Beard, Horror Begins at Home: Family Trauma in Paranormal Reality TV Karen E Macfarlane, “If You Have Ghosts: Haunting Neoliberal Real Estate in Paranormal Reality Series” from panel “The Ghosts of Capitalism: Neoliberalism and the State”Owen Davies: The Haunted: A Social History of GhostsColin Dickey: Ghostland: An American History in Haunted PlacesDouglas Kellner, "Poltergeists, Gender, and Class. Horror Film in the Age of Reagan," Cinema and the Question of ClassAmy Lawrence, Paranormal Survivors: Validating the Struggling Middle ClassJames Houran,V. K. Kumar,Michael A. Thalbourne &Nicole E. Lavertue, “ Haunted by somatic tendencies: Spirit infestation as psychogenic illness” in Mental Health, Religion & Culture Frederic Jameson, Historicism in “The Shining” Support the show
In this edition of the Workers Cauldron, we are headed over to the strange world of TikTok, where a new folklore is developing around creatures appropriated from indigenous American spiritualities.  These spirits, oddly euphemized as “Flesh Pedestrians” and “Windy Bois," are said to steal unwary hikers off trails and into the deep forests of North America. We break these stories down, and discuss how this form of appropriation sidesteps the very real history of colonialism, to the horrors of Canadian residential schools to Kit Carson’s brutal attempt at ethnic cleansing in the American Southwest.Bonus Material: Deer that are not deer. They are #notdeerSources:Shawn Smallman, Dangerous Spirits: The Windigo in Myth and HistoryJack Forbes, Columbus and Other Cannibals: The Wetiko Disease of Exploitation, Imperialism, and TerrorismDina Gilio-Whitaker, As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing RockCBS "We're not just relics of the past": How #NativeTikTok is preserving Indigenous cultures and inspiring a younger generationDazed Digital: Skinwalkers: the creepy creatures terrifying TikTokNoah Nez ,Native Skeptic, SkinwalkersAdrienne Keene, Native Appropriations, Magic in North America Part 1, ughLong Walk: Tears of the NavajoRobert Fletcher: Connection with nature is an oxymoron: A political ecology of “nature-deficit disorder”JD Sword, Not Deer,  or a Deer?SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO WIDE ATLANTIC WEIRD AND The BEER LADIES PODCASTSupport the show
Paranormal PSYOPS

Paranormal PSYOPS


In this episode of The Worker’s Cauldron, we look at how the military of the United States has exploited supernatural beliefs in the process of growing its empire. From the infamous use of the Filipino Aswang to suppress the hukbalahap rebellion to the equally infamous Ghost Tape Number 10 played into the rebel held areas of Vietnam, we explore the strange intersections of imperialism and folklore. Bonus Content: Various things to say about pigsHerbert Friedman, Superstition PSYOPMax Boot: Operation Mongoose: The Story of America's Efforts to Overthrow CastroThe Aswang Phenomenon The Aswang ProjectHeonik Kwon: Ghosts of War in VietnamMaximo D. Ramos, The Aswang Complex in Philippine FolkloreNetwork of Concerned AnthropologistsSupport the show
Having discussed the first landmark cases of alien abduction in the last episode, this week we investigate the explosion of abduction claims in the 1980s and 1990s. We discuss the works of artist turned hypnotist Budd Hopkins, the strange encounters of author Whitley Streiber, the alien hybrid theories of historian David Jacobs, and the spiritual alien ideas of the late great John Mack. While alien abduction stories have existed since the 1960s, why did they become a pop-culture sensation during this era, with thousands of otherwise normal Americans claiming remarkable encounters with beings from other worlds?Bonus content: When Baywatch went paranormalResources:Jodi Dean, Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to CyberspaceDiana Tumminia (ed) Alien Worlds: Social and Religious Dimensions of Extraterrestrial ContactRoger Luckhurst: The Science-Fictionalization of Trauma: Remarks on Narratives of Alien AbductionLaura Thursby: The Trauma of Missing Time in Alien AbductionsThomas Bullard: UFO Abduction Reports: The Supernatural Kidnap Narrative Returns in Technological GuiseBridget Brown: The Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves: The History and Politics of Alien AbductionWide Atlantic Weird Podcast: Budd Hopkins' Intruders: How Alien Abductions Got So PopularThe Oprah Winfrey Show: Siblings' "Bizarre" Story of Being Abducted by AliensAn introduction to Frederic Jameson's ideas on postmodernitySupport the show ( the show
Welcome to our first episode of our exploration of the very weird world of alien abductions. We talk about the strange mixture of Cold War anxiety, racial tension, emerging biotechnology that shaped the very first accounts of alien abductions--both in the movies and, allegedly, in real life. We cover the strange paranoia of Richard Shaver, the taking of Betty and Barney Hill, the very bizarre story of Travis Walton, and the very psychedelic abduction of Betty Andreasson.Bonus Material: Getting to know your Orthons from your QuazgaasAlso check out our interview on the Wide Weird Atlantic Podcast!Further Reading for the Curious:Bridget Brown, They Know Us Better Than They Know OurselvesNigel Waston, Captured By Aliens?Support the show
In this episode of the workers cauldron we talk about how rumors of living (non-avian) Dinosaurs in Central Africa and alleged glowing pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea are intricately linked to the history of racism and colonialism.Bonus Content: Problematic LEGO sets, Human Zoos and Raquel WelchReferencesWide Atlantic Weird: Monsters of the Frontier Guimont: Hunting Dinosaurs in Central Africa Loxton and Donald Prothero: Abominable Science! Naish: Hunting Monsters Hopper: Denial of Evolution Is a Form of White Supremacy the show
A Paranormal Pandemic

A Paranormal Pandemic


As the world went into lockdown, people began to more ghosts and mysterious lights in the sky. And this wasn't the first pandemic to be followed by the paranormal.Support the show
Are violent villagers really hunting vampires in the African country of Malawi? This week we discuss the history of this small nation,  how Western news outlets mischaracterized the movement against alleged vampires,  and look for the real bloodsuckers--social precarity, the forces of international finance capital, and neocolonialism. Our sources are: Protesting unemployment and precarity? Mapping Community Perspectives on the Anti-bloodsucker Protests in Mulanje District, Malawi By Daniel Kabunduli Nkhata Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global CapitalismBy David McNallySpeaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial AfricaBy Luise WhiteAs always, special thanks to Ian Lee for his spooky rendition of the Internationale.Support the show
This week, we sweep away the stereotypes surrounding "genies," aka jinn, to see what they can teach us about the psychological and spiritual ramifications of the mass forced migrations in the age of the global “War on Terror.”Bonus Content: Racist Danes and Sleep ParalysisReferences:Islam, Migration and Jinn: Spiritual Medicine in Muslim Health ManagementLegends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to ZanzibarThe Jinn of OmanMeet the Dutch Exorcist-Doctors treating the mental health of Muslim immigrantsSupport the show
Mutilation Nation

Mutilation Nation


Mutilation NationThis week, we discuss the cattle mutilation wave that hit the heartlands of the United States during the 1970s. This is how the near-collapse of the cattle industry and the end of the Vietnam War precipitated rumors of secret cults, extraterrestrials, cryptids, and a secret government conspiracy all hell-bent on slicing up cows. And also how this all relates to radical right-wing political movements in the American West.Bonus Content: Close Encounters of the Doggy Kind and some Trotsky quotesPrimary Sources:Michael J. Goleman, Wave of Mutilation: The Cattle Mutilation Phenomenon of the 1970sChristopher O’Brien, Stalking the Herd: Unraveling the Cattle Mutilation MysteryBill Ellis, Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the MediaKansas City 41 Action News, Rancher mystified by cattle mutilationsKFOR Oklahoma News 4, Ranchers on edge after cow found mutilated in Oklahoma pastureSupport the show
In 2012, workers building on a dam in Zimbabwe all walked off the job in protest of unsafe working conditions. What made this story international news was that the workplace danger was mermaids. This week, we discuss the spiritual significance of the njuzu, or the mermaid in Shona indigenous religion, how the country’s troubled history of colonialism informs this belief, and what it all has to do with a massive religious revival in the early 1990s.Bonus: The Imperial Gaze in western paranormal podcastsThanks to Ian Lee for the Creepy Internationale theme song and here is that video about Mermaids in Zimbabwe: the show
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