Friday, November 15, 2019

Free Mykelle McDaniel from NCAA Censure and the Abuse of Coach Butch Jones.

The following excerpt is from the book I co-authored with Tom Mattingly Empowered: The Fan ReVOLution That Changed College Football regarding the treatment then-head coach Butch Jones doled out to a player, Mykelle McDaniel, after he refused to play on a torn meniscus his freshman year at the University of Tennessee. To date, Mykelle McDaniel has yet to play a down of college football--first owing to Jones's blackball, then UT's refusal to release his transfer papers, and now the NCAA's ruling that he must sit out ANOTHER year and only have three years of eligibility wherever he decides to play. If you want to see what Mykelle says for himself, you can watch the series of interviews I did with him in 2018 on YouTube. Butch Jones is currently serving as an "intern" at the University of Alabama, an arrangement which allows him to collect monthly checks of $160,000 because the $35k Bama pays him doesn't end his buyout agreement with UT. 

That led us to Mykelle McDaniel, who I interviewed a couple of weeks later along with his mother, Chante-Amoure Simmons. Mykelle was another highly touted recruit, a four-star strongside defensive end who had thirty-one offers coming out of high school—including offers from twelve of the fourteen schools in the SEC: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. Mykelle and Marlin did not know each other, and Marlin’s full story is only being revealed now, in this book. So there was no way that these two young men somehow coordinated their stories. Marlin is in Knoxville; Mykelle is in Hutchinson, Kansas.

I spoke with Ms. Simmons before she and her son committed to an interview with me. The first thing she said struck me hard and made me feel slightly sick. “My son’s father hasn’t been a role model in his life. My second husband never had that bond with Mykelle either. The reason I felt comfortable sending my son to Tennessee was because Coach Jones presented himself as that father figure I always felt my son needed. I thought he was going to go to Tennessee and have that mentorship I’d always wanted for him. But I was a single mother going through his recruitment period with him, and I had no idea what to look for.”

I don’t think I’ll ever get over hearing the tragedy in her voice. Her voice was lovely anyway, soft and low-pitched, and she spoke with such sincerity and eloquence that as soon as she finished that comment, I started to get angry because I thought I knew what was coming. I just hated it for her and for her son, who I’d not yet spoken to. The bond between them was so touching. I mean—think about it. Before she would allow me to interview her son, she had wanted to talk with me first.
I don’t blame her for that. I admire her for it. She’d learned her lesson about trusting strangers with Mykelle.

As I said, I thought I knew what was coming. In actuality, I had no clue how bad that story was going to be. The next day, I interviewed Mykelle with his mother sitting in on the call.

During the pre-training camp physicals, the UT team doctors detected popping in one of Mykelle’s knees. They soon diagnosed a torn meniscus—an injury I can empathize with because I’ve had the same injury myself—and recommended that he have surgery to correct the issue. Because he’d finished a math class late—and not because he failed it. He had a score of 26 on his ACT—Mykelle already had an academic redshirt for the 2016 season, his freshman year. So his path seemed clear. He would have the problem surgically corrected, which was a fairly minor procedure, and would redshirt that season.

But the coaches didn’t agree. They were appealing the academic redshirt and thought there was a chance he could play that season. So Jones and his staff were pushing Mykelle to go ahead and play the season—with his injured knee. Of course, Mykelle, at eighteen, was anxious to start playing too. But a torn meniscus isn’t an injury to be ignored. The torn meniscus in my knee had led to a total knee replacement. I couldn’t imagine any responsible coach or trainer trying to get a young man to play with a torn meniscus and particularly not in the SEC.

“We had like a team advisor. You know, you go to him and just talk to him, you know what I’m saying? Just talk to him. The guy’s not supposed to tell anybody what you talk about at all. I did find out later on, the more I talked to him, the more I told him, the more he was going back to coach and telling him everything,” Mykelle explained. “So I got to talking to him and I was just going back and forth, getting his opinion and expressing my opinion as far as how I feel about playing on my knee right now and thinking about whether I wanna fix it or whether I want to go ahead and have the surgery. And the first day I actually tell him about it, later on that day in a team meeting, Coach Jones was…he didn’t say my name, didn’t mention any name at all, but he started saying that: ‘If you’re thinking about having surgery instead of playing, don’t be a bitch. Man up and help your team out.’ Didn’t say any names but I’m not stupid. I clearly know who he was just talking about.”

“So, after you decided to go ahead and have the surgery and that was with Knoxville Orthopedic Clinic, correct?” I asked.

“Correct.”

“Okay, were the trainers, the assistant coaches, or Coach Jones pushing you to not have the surgery and to go ahead and play even though they knew the doctors had recommended it?”

“Everyone except the doctor himself,” he replied. “When I approached everyone else about it, they said, ‘Don’t have it. There’s a chance you could burn your redshirt. We need you…’

And so on and so on. When I went to the doctor about it there was one thing consistently on my mind. It’s my career. I need to be smart about it. So I go see the doctor and I explain to him that the coaches have not been allowing me to have my surgery for a couple of weeks now and he says, ‘They can’t do that. I had no idea they were doing that. It’s illegal for them to do that. No one can pick and choose when you have your surgery but you.’ When he told me that, and once they (the coaches) were aware that he told me that, that is when they permitted me to have my surgery.”

Now there were all sorts of alarm bells going off in my head. Marlin Lane had also stated that the physicians at KOC were outstanding and provided great medical care, but that he had to go to them outside of the normal injury protocols with the trainers. Now, we have an eighteen-year-old freshman being told by a KOC physician that the coaching staff was making medical decisions on his behalf although that was illegal. That goes well beyond Jones and his staff micromanaging the program. If not outright abuse, that’s downright negligence.

Butch Jones was trading the health and future prospects of his players for wins on Saturdays in the fall and no one at UT had stepped forward as an advocate for those young men.

Mykelle’s mother put her foot down. Her son’s surgery was scheduled and successful, thanks to the Knoxville Orthopedic Clinic physicians. Three weeks later, Mykelle was back on the practice field, training with the team. Because he wasn’t active on the roster, he was working with the scout team. Six weeks into a fourteen week season, it would have been ridiculous to
burn his redshirt. Clearly, the smart thing to do was to let him sit out the remainder of his redshirt year, and then join the active roster the following season.

On his first day back at practice, Mykelle was wearing a green no-contact jersey that the trainers had told him to wear.

“I was back on the field. I came back. In my mind, I’m one hundred percent. I still have a green jersey on but I’m still working. I’m still practicing on the scout team. I walk onto the practice field and I’m like, ‘How you doing, Coach?’

“And Coach Jones says, ‘I’m doing good but I’d be better if you wasn’t in that green jersey.’

“I said, ‘It’s not me, it’s the trainers that got me in it.’

“And he said, ‘Yeah, you being a little bitch.’ His exact words.”

I have to admit that at that moment, I kind of lost my temper. What made it tough was that I was on a three-way call with Mykelle and his mother. The last thing I wanted to do was to follow my initial instincts, which would have involved cussing. So I took a moment and then asked, “Okay, so he called you a little bitch because you were wearing the no contact jersey when you first got back out on the field after your surgery, correct?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“So what did you do?”

“I chuckled and said, ‘Yes sir. I hope it gets better.’ and I continued on with my stretches. And he walked past.”

Always just a little embarrassing to realize a teenager is more mature than I am at fifty-two. But that’s the kind of young man Mykelle is. Like his mother, he’s articulate and extremely courteous. In this day and age, it’s positively refreshing to hear an eighteen year-old just being
polite. Those “yes ma’ams” told me more about his character than any amount of background research could have. These were good people, who could never have anticipated what was going to happen next.

“It’s South Carolina week,” Mykelle went on. “The next incident was South Carolina weekend and we come out for practice Monday and I’m pass rushing this particular day, against this person…a new starter on the o-line. He tore his meniscus before I tore mine. He had surgery before me but his body didn’t heal as fast as mine. He took his good time coming back, so he was literally just now coming back off his meniscus injury and they put him in the starting lineup and line us up to go to work. And I’m going against him and he’s shooting his hand…he’s heading for my face mask. He’s shooting his hands and he’s aiming for my throat, slapping me in my face and whatnot. I turn and Butch Jones is literally just standing right there.

“We had officials at every practice and they would throw flags and, you know, break up every fight before they happen. Literally. Every practice there would be twenty officials out every single practice. There’d be twenty officials. And he’s slapping my face mask and he’s doing it for so long and it gets to the point where I turn to Butch Jones and I say, ‘Are you just going to sit there and watch him do this?’

“He doesn’t respond to me, he just head nods. I don’t know what that means but I said, ‘Are you just going to sit here and watch him keep playing me dirty like that?’ He just nods his head. So I go back, and I come off the ball, and at this point, I do a post move. That’s a move that you don’t do at practice. You’re not supposed to do it against a teammate. At that point he grabs me and he throws me on the ground. Once he throws me on the ground, everyone else hops on top of me. I mean the offensive line was on the bench. They wasn’t even in the game or in the play. The line’s just jumping and stomping and beating me and nothing is happening. Officials
just standing there, not running onto the field. Coaches standing there, not doing anything. I was cool with all the running backs, the only people jumping me were the offensive line. Running backs just standing there watching. Wide receivers just standing there watching. Everybody just stood there watching.

“I talked to a couple of people afterwards, one of the running backs that I was cool with, his name was Jeremy Lewis, he tried to hop in, but his coach cussed him out and said, ‘Don’t you hop in. That’s your o-line. You leave them alone.’ I talked to Jauan Jennings. He told me he was running a fly route. He was way down the field, he didn’t even know what happened until he got all the way back. Everyone was asking, ‘Where were you when it happened?’ Everybody had different reasons but they all were saying it was just the offensive line when they did what they did.

“I went back and looked at it. I saw it on camera that same night, you can pull it (practice film) up on camera. I watched the offensive line just run in and jump in, I watched Jauan running the fly route, I watched the coaches just standing there, I watched the coach cuss the running back who tried to hop in to help me, I watched Butch Jones stand there, I watched the officials just stand there. The next day when I go back, everybody is in the locker room looking at it on their iPads. Everyone on the team gets it. Once Coach Jones comes in and sees everyone’s on their iPads in the locker room watching it, they take the film off of the site. They take that play off of the team thing (practice video site), they took that whole play off. It’s no longer there. I don’t know what they did to it but it was no longer there.”

When writers are conducting an interview and things like this come out, it feels almost like a double gut punch. The first response is a human reaction, visceral and raw, to what you’ve just heard. The second is like getting slapped across the face or punched in the jaw with
adrenaline. That feeling is like leveling up right before a boss fight in a video game. You don’t know exactly what’s coming, but you think to yourself that now might be a good time to head to the closest save point. You recognize the feeling that you’re getting close to something really big.

“So how many…when you say jumped, are you saying they physically pummeled you? They hit you?”

“Stomped, punch, beat. I was beat. By the entire offensive line. If you need me to go into names, as far as the offensive line, I could name the entire offensive line on the 2016 player roster.”

“Now were they instructed to do so by the coaching staff?”

“If you ask me? I know nothing as far as they did it. I do not know nothing for a fact. If you ask me, I’m no fool. I’ve seen other fights happen all through the season. I’ve seen other scuffles happen, the referees break it up, I mean within a second, like instantly. The officials are over there and then it’s over with. This particular fight, they all just sat there and watched.”

Mykelle’s mother was still on the line so I asked, “Ms. Simmons? You saw that entire fight on film, right?”

She’d told me that during our conversation earlier.

“Yes. I saw the fight but when I tried to go back the next day after my mom was saying you need to find some way to download it, the next day when I tried to go back it was gone.”

“How long would you estimate that scuffle went on before it ended?”

“I would say about at least ten minutes?”

Although nothing should have shocked me at that point, I found myself gobsmacked yet again. “That long? Ten minutes?”

“Oh yeah.”

Now, I cannot imagine she was running a stopwatch while she’s watching that film of her son being assaulted by a group of football players. I also am aware that during a traumatic situation, witness descriptions are usually inaccurate—over- or underestimated because of the stress those witnesses are coping with. That’s enough to make two minutes feel like five, or five like ten for most people.

Regardless, her testimony makes it clear that the incident went on much longer than an unplanned scuffle between football players in the heat of the moment would have. Keeping in mind that coaches and officials were standing by and watching—allowing—this to happen indicates to me that this assault continued for some minutes before it finally ended, and that is disturbing.

“All right. So what kind of physical shape were you in after that Mykelle?”

“My adrenaline was running so I don’t feel anything at the time. I get up and I grab my helmet. Coach Jones tried to go to the next play and none of the scout team players ran in to replace me. So he’s like, ‘Who’s supposed to be here right now?’ And then I’m putting my helmet back on and running back onto the field, and he grabbed me and was like, ‘No, you go to the sidelines.’ That’s when he started cussing out the scout team players. ‘Why the f*** are are you out of the game? Get out there, you’re not doing nothing, or I’m gonna take your scholarship!’

“So he went out there and that’s when I calmed down and realized that every time I moved my shoulder, my collarbone was popping out. Literally. I showed the doctors, they took me into the training room with the doctor to take a look at it and he said I needed to go to the emergency room immediately. And they put me in an ambulance and I went to the emergency room. He said the way my collarbone was moving, it was too close to my throat. They didn’t want my bone to cut anything, you understand what I’m saying? So, they took me to the emergency room immediately. They took me there, they X-ray’d it, put me inside the CAT scan, they said—they basically came up with the conclusion I got a contusion in my collarbone and they can’t fix it, because if they go in and fix it, nine times out of ten they would do nothing but make it worse. Just gotta pray it falls back into place.”

“Okay, at this point Ms. Simmons, you have documentation from the hospital that he went to. Was that UT medical center or somewhere else?”

“I’m not sure about what hospital it was because they never gave me documentation so everybody was telling me that Butch Jones had it, and I scheduled meetings with him. First of all, he wouldn’t take a phone call with me. I scheduled two meetings with him after that, both of which he cancelled. I was able to… Coach Strip (Steve Stripling) connected me to the doctor, and I don’t remember the doctor’s name. I have emails, I’m gonna go back through my emails and see what I can find.”
“So after that event, and I saw the text message exchange you had with Butch Jones on your Twitter feed. Did you ever discuss the incident more with him?”

Just as a note—that text exchange was just about what you’d expect from an angry eighteen-year old football player who just found out his coach was glad he got injured as the result of a fight. The language was probably cleaner than what I would have used if that had been my son on the field.

But not by much.

“Oh yeah, he called me after that and when he called me his exact words were, ‘I understand you’re frustrated, I understand you’re upset, but there’s a certain way you can’t talk to the University of Tennessee head coach.’”

“Oh wow, that’s just arrogant. My God.”

“Yeah, he said, ‘I apologize for what happened. I didn’t mean for that to happen. You won’t need to focus on getting any revenge from anybody, I’m gonna get the revenge for you. I’m gonna talk to them, I’m gonna get on to their coach. I’m gonna make sure they’re in trouble for this, they will pay for this.'

“So, I got off the phone and thought, ‘I’ll sleep better tonight.’ And nothing happened to the offensive line. Nothing at all. Yeah.”

“Some of my teammates—Taeler Dowdy, and Jauan Jennings, and John Kelly—they told me at the end of practice that Coach told the whole team that he was glad that what happened, happened. You got to understand that at the time, the whole starting defense…I’m the only scout team player on scholarship so everybody who’s on the field knows that I’m honestly there because I want to be on the field with them. So they respect me, I’m chill with them; they understand that’s who I’m with. So the whole defense has no idea that this happened to me so when, Butch Jones said, ‘I’m happy that happened because when we play South Carolina this weekend it’s going to be a street fight and that’s just showed me that y’all are ready for a street fight.’

“That’s why I texted him and I said, ‘Did you say you were happy it happened?’ That’s when the text messages started because right when I found out I texted him and I asked, ‘Did you say you were happy it happened?’

“He was trying to say that I was twisting his words. ‘I was happy that you got out there.’

“I don’t understand how you can even switch that. You were happy that I got out there? Or you happy that it happened? I don’t know how…I don’t really understand what he’s talking about on that.”

“Yeah, that’s not something any normal person would say.”

“Yeah, not at all. So, while I’m in the emergency room—I’m in the hospital when the defense found out. That’s when Derek Barnett, Corey Vereen, Kahlil McKenzie, Jonathon Kongbo—all of them, the whole defensive line—that’s when they went to the offensive line in the locker room and basically there was a fight in the locker room about what happened. A little scuffle, not really a fight because the offensive line wouldn’t fight back. They were like, ‘We don’t wanna fight, we don’t wanna fight, we didn’t mean for it to happen.’”

As soon as I heard that, my mind instantly flashed back to the 2017 season when ShyTuttle had his orbital bone broken and Butch Jones had claimed in a press conference that he’d fallen on a helmet. Obviously, fights on and off the practice field were a pretty standard event though—something these players were accustomed to under this coaching staff. Here again—I’ve been around football for a long time. I know how frequently tempers flare up on the field, both during practice and during games. But something like this?

How often was this type of thing going on? And how out of line was that with other teams?

Preferred walk-on Taeler Dowdy was one of the players that Mykelle had mentioned in regard to the incident. I spoke with him a week later.

“Okay, so you witnessed the fight that ended up breaking Mykelle’s collarbone, right?”

“Yes, I was actually in the locker room with him after it.”

“Okay, why don’t you tell me about what went down as far as you could tell with that whole thing?”

“I won’t say I saw the whole thing but I definitely heard from everybody, because everybody was talking about it. I think it was a play, and it’s funny because the coaches, like, I was a practice player at the time and, Mykelle, he was a scout player too. And they (the coaches) would like for real yell at us if we would beat the first stringers, like if we, I guess, went too hard and we actually beat them they would get mad. And Mykelle, he would just always beat the o-linemen and I guess they just all get mad and they jumped him. When he came into the locker room, it was just him when he came into the locker room, and I had to help him take his shoulder pads off and stuff. And then like five minutes of him being in pain, the trainers finally came. I don’t know, I just felt like they definitely dealt with that wrong. And then after that practice, Coach Jones says, ‘Good job to the offensive linemen for like sticking together and having each other’s backs’ or something.”

“What were other players saying in the locker room about what happened? After it happened?”

“Well, a lot of the defensive players were mad and, I mean, the linemen, them and Mykelle kinda like—they just didn’t like Mykelle because he would do good. He would do good against them at practice so they were gloating about that. I don’t feel like they felt bad that they did what they did.”

“Did anybody on the coaching staff, strength coach, GAs, other players, did anybody step forward and say what they did was wrong?”

“Not that I heard of honestly because that wasn’t the only fight. I mean, there were fights after that and I believe that because of that situation went so wrong there was more after that…because of that. There wasn’t a punishment for that or something.”

So, let’s take a minute to assimilate what’s been said. Another player has just corroborated Mykelle’s story. Keep in mind, too, that Mykelle’s account dovetails with what Marlin Lane had said earlier—not only about injuries and how the coaches demanded their players continue to play, but also about how Butch Jones used players against their teammates, setting some guys up as almost a gang in order to enforce his rules and expectations upon the others.

“While you’re playing, if you don’t perform to the way he wants you to perform, or basically carry a jug of water or do this and do all that, he was basically saying, ‘You’re not performing up to your abilities so I’m going to give you a year probation on your scholarship. If you don’t perform or do what you came here to do that’s…you’re done.’” Marlin (Lane)had said two weeks earlier. “And what kind of had me up in the air with the last interview I did, which I did not with you guys, but with some… I can’t even remember, who… I think it was SB Nation, I’m not sure but they quoted something that I said in the wrong—”

“Yeah, I remember that.”

“It almost kind of messed my career up with jobs or…and everything else. But by me, you know, just knowing certain people that they gave me a chance at my job now. By them ( SB Nation article) saying he had me threaten kids’ lives, which I never did. I never said that. What I said was he would use me, because of my background, where I come from, my environment. On player staff meeting one day which is—we sit at a table like this of probably fourteen players that pretty much can have a voice to other players—and we were sitting in his office conference room and he literally told me, ‘I’m going to tell you why I got you on player staff because you got street in you and so you could go up to certain players and say this to certain players and they won’t react to you because of...’

Basically he was saying where I was from, you know, and I kinda laughed it off but at the same time I’m like…where is that going? Even Justin Worley, like they all... ‘Why would he say that?’”

“When I hear you talk or watch the way you are, I don’t instantly think street, am I wrong here? I mean you’re a very well-spoken young man, how could anybody get street off that?” I said.

“That’s what…‘The reason why I’m in here is because you want me to go to certain players and tell them that if they don’t act right, you’re gonna kick them off the team.’”

So now, all the pieces are starting to fall together. I’m getting a clear picture of what had happened to those earlier teams, those earlier players. I understand better what the environment must been like, and why those squads that looked so good on paper didn’t live up to their potential. I can see why so many injuries decimated the Volunteers, and why so many players transferred. I have three players on the record now: Marlin Lane, who was gone before Mykelle McDaniel and Taeler Dowdy arrived. I have a parent on the record.

As I write this now, I have a strong hunch that these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Too many other players have been named by these three. And I know that for me, this story is just beginning. There are months of research ahead of me as I track down other players, staff members and former coaches, trainers and physicians and university officials.

And obviously, the person I want to talk to the most is Butch Jones. I would be shocked if he wasn’t restricted by a tight non-disclosure agreement after his termination from the University of Tennessee. I’d assume almost every high-profile coach in the country is. That being said, he should be given the opportunity to discuss these claims on the record and I’d be more than happy to provide him that platform.

But I think it’s essential to understand the following as the foundation of what we’ve been discussing: a football coach is in a position of near-absolute authority over the players on his team. A coach must administer that authority in such a way as to not needlessly endanger a player’s safety, or to negatively impact their prospects. Jones was responsible for his players’ welfare on multiple levels, whether they were superstars or on the scout team. Regardless of how you look at these stories—and this is just a fraction of what I was told by these interview subjects—at the end of the day, any coach that jeopardizes the players on his team must be held accountable for his actions.

That’s why the Maryland decision to retain head coach DJ Durkin after the investigation into the death of player Jordan McNair due to heat stroke caused such a backlash among students, media, and fans. The investigators had censured the coaching practices that led to these same kinds of repercussions on the Maryland football team, citing a culture where players were afraid to speak out, a athletic department that was deeply dysfunctional, a strength and conditioning program the university failed to supervise, and an overall lack of oversight warding the players’ health, safety, and well-being.

Being suspended for a few games isn’t true accountability. That’s a slap on the wrist. The University of Maryland had no option but to terminate Durkin the day after they had reinstated him as head football coach.

And let’s be honest—the similarities between Maryland under Durkin and Tennessee under Jones are striking. Considering the type of injury Mykelle McDaniel received, the two programs were closer than anyone, including me, would ever have guessed.

After I wrote this chapter, I sat back and thought for a few minutes about what I’d learned. When I first heard Marlin and Mykelle and Taeler tell their stories, I was kicking myself for not knowing what was happening to them even though I live hundreds of miles away. Like I should have possessed some sort of insight superpower. Then, I felt disturbed that Vol Nation revolted against UT because we were mad that the university was ignoring what we, the fans, demanded and expected from them when it came to hiring a football coach.

Coaches. The highest-paid, most-visible state employees with their multi-million dollar contracts subsidized by taxpayer dollars. And as I thought the above sentence, something clicked in my head.
The fan ReVOLution wasn’t just about winning football games after all. Without the uprising, none of these stories—or the ones we’ll pursue after this book is finished—might ever have come to light.
That’s how important it is for fans to hold their universities accountable for their decisions. Not just to win games, although that’s a big part of it. We must require them to discharge their responsibilities toward all students. If colleges don’t adequately safeguard their students, then it’s everyone’s absolute duty to hold them accountable for it, whether in Baltimore or Waco, East Lansing or Knoxville.

We really are the caretakers now.







Sunday, October 13, 2019

Paranormal Research Part 1: The Haunted Monroe House


The fact of the matter is that there’s a long string of peculiar accidents, hate crimes, tragedies, infidelity and violent domestic abuse associated with the house as far back as the early 1900s. Those events set the stage for the haunting today. And while we don’t have all the facts of the Monroe House and there are sizable gaps in our knowledge of who owned and lived in the residence, a pattern starts to emerge early that is worth evaluating.


The legends around the large, white-sided Victorian house and its extreme haunting are well-known in Blackford County, Indiana. The Monroe House, as the residence at 218 North Monroe Street in Hartford City is called, has been a mystery for decades. Neighbors have reported everything from fires to black smoky figures in the windows to loud arguments and lights coming on in the vacant home for years, but when the police show up no one is there and nothing is wrong. The ghost stories go back at least to the 1930s. When you combine the stories and legends with the historical records, a fascinating—and terrifying—timeline emerges, one that might explain the continued hauntings and escalated activity in the residence.

Psychics have claimed for years that the house is haunted as the result of horrific child abuse—a father who abused his small son and daughter so severely the event has been imprinted on the property, a literal trauma to the very foundations of the house. Investigations have uncovered Class A EVPs of small children screaming, disembodied voices interacting with investigators even through baby monitors, shadow people, the apparitions of two small children, a small blackened apparition in the upstairs windows, unexplained fires, physical attacks, and sever poltergeist activity.

But all of these are claims—allegations. What we have to do is to try to tie the current paranormal claims to the actual history of the house. That way, we can corroborate the evidence with documented fact. That's why paranormal researchers, who may not be the obsessive compulsive provokers that you find on most YouTube channel, are probably the most important members of their paranormal investigation groups. With a well-known haunt like the Monroe House, a lot of teams are content to accept the legend...the cover story of a location as absolute fact. They investigate a location and immediately defer to the legend to validate any evidence they may find.

But that's not investigation. That's intellectual laziness, and if you're part of a group who just accepts what the owner of a site has up on his website, then you're invalidating every single bit of evidence you may capture. You have to research the location honestly, and find the real history for yourself. The Monroe House is a location I investigated extensively, and the story I uncovered has little to no bearing on what the claimed history of the site is.


The house is now a triplex, divided during the tenure of the Berger family, who lived in the home from around 1900 to 1930. The Bergers were Belgian immigrants who began their life in Indiana by working in the Hartford City Glass Company as glass workers. John B. and Mary Berger had five children together, who all worked in the glass company from childhood on. John became an agent for Indianapolis Brewing and a major steamship line. He bought a tavern, invested his money in real estate, joined organizations like the Elks, the Rotary, and the Oddfellows, and became a leading citizen of the town.

In the late 1900s, two families lived in the Monroe Street house. The Bergers occupied the downstairs, but after the death of John in 1905 rented out the upstairs. Through searching newspaper archives, we discovered an article that may directly tie into the claims of the Monroe Street Haunting—and the family that lived upstairs.

On March 20, 1907, the Hartford City Telegram reported the following:
"Ulysses G. Miars, the well known bookkeeper and former paymaster at the Johnston factory, was Friday made the defendant in a divorce suit filed in the circuit court by. Mary Miars, who besides a divorce asks the custody of their three children, $500 alimony and $25 monthly for the support of the children. Mr, and Mrs. Miars were married in September, 1886, and lived together until March 1, 1907, when the plaintiff avers that she was cast upon the street to depend on the charity of strangers. Her allegations in part are: That the defendant has been guilty of cruel and inhuman treatment; that he possesses a violent and uncontrollable temper and at various times became enraged without cause, and on March 11 drove her from their home giving her no clothing other than, that she was wearing; that she was obliged to seek shelter at the home of a neighbor as it was late in the evening and she had no relatives that she could call upon for assistance; that plaintiff is weak, frail and in poor health and unable to perform hard labor although she was compelled to do so and then was not provided with suitable clothing. The family is comprised of three children—Earl, age 20; Edna, age 8, and Ernest, age 4. It is further alleged that the defendant is capable of earning $125 monthly and fully able to maintain the children by paying $25 monthly for their support. The parties named in the complaint have resided on north Monroe street and their troubles of the present week have afforded a great opportunity for the town gossips.”

To report not only a divorce proceeding but allegations of domestic violence and child abuse is extremely rare in newspapers at the time, especially in a small Midwestern town. Ulysses Miars was a well-known businessman whose life fell apart in a matter of weeks. First the public claim of abuse, then the loss of his position, then reconciliation with his wife—only to desert her a few months later for (allegedly) another woman. On December 4, 1907, the following article appeared:
“UG Miars has filed a suit for divorce from his wife, Mrs. Mary Miars, alleging that she had a cruel disposition and frequently chastised their children with a buggy whip.”
By June of 1908, Ulysses Miars wasn’t paying support for his wife and children. He was newly married—already—to a woman who got a divorce at about the same time from her husband. The only reason he was able to pay the settlement of the divorce was because his mother sold her farm. But after that? He didn’t pay his former family a dime. Ulysses Miars and his new wife (they actually married illegally, as in her divorce she was forbidden from marrying for two years) ended up moving to Ohio, where in 1949, he died—in Toledo. The only child listed as a survivor from his first marriage was Edgar, the eldest son.

What’s extremely strange about this is that Mary Miars and all three children are in the 1910 census, now living on Jefferson Street. But none of them—not Mary, not Edna, not Ernest, not Edgar—can be found on any 1920 census.

So where did they go? The child abuse and domestic violence cited in the courts was extreme and severe. Did the Miars children die young? We know there were rumors about the family before the horrific divorce, because in 1903 there was gossip around their then four-year old daughter, Edna. No one had seen the child for a while, and word spread through the neighborhood that she had diphtheria. At the time, that would have required the entire household—this is before the Monroe Street house—to be quarantined. So the Miars inserted a strange notice in the paper that their daughter "has never been bedfast on account of sickness and is now able to be around the house most of the time."
Which if you think about it, is weird. She’s not sick, but she’s able to be around the house “most of the time”?

The Berger family, on the other hand, was socially prominent and well-respected. Their children lived at home as young adults and didn’t cause any trouble. The Berger daughters had large weddings, reported in the Telegram, and the sons went into business and did very well. But in 1905, John B. Berger was diagnosed with tuberculosis.  went to Silver City, New Mexico for treatment at the Sisters’ Hospital there. But upon arrival, his case was declared hopeless and he was dead eight days later. After his funeral, the Bergers rented the upstairs apartment—to the Miars. Although the two families shared the house for a very short period of time, the Bergers began to be plagued by a series of baffling and bizarre occurrences that traumatized the entire family.

To start off with, the Bergers’ barn caught on fire. Sparks from the blaze subsequently set the homes of two neighbors, Emil Loriaux and Joe Aucreman, on fire as well. Then, John Berger’s older brother, Marshall, was stranded outside and his feet were severely frostbitten in 1905. Then a horse stepped on his foot and gangrene set in. Marshall’s leg was amputated above the knee. He recovered, only to die of pneumonia two years after his brother, in 1907.

Later in 1905, John’s son George was the victim of a hate crime, and was shot by anti-Belgian assailants as he walked with friends after a dance. Witnesses reported that the two different groups of men hadn’t interacted at all as they passed each other on the street. George and his friends didn’t apparently know any of their attackers and according to witnesses didn’t say a word to the other group.

So when suddenly the group, led by three men from Kentucky, yelled, “You goddamned frogs won’t be running this town no more!” it was unexpected. The men unleashed a spray of bullets at George and his friends. George was shot in the chest, right above the heart, and was carried home to his mother’s house. Doctors expected him to die and the newspaper reported that he was for a time “pulseless”. But somehow, he rallied and survived the attack.

Interestingly, the three attackers went to a bar after shooting George Berger, where they told the bartender they had “fixed a group of frogs”, and then disappeared from the town entirely. The bar was owned by Frederick Nicaise—who had a tie to the Berger family as well.

The Bergers’ daughter, Mary, had married Belgian immigrant Frederick Nicaise, in 1894. After five children in fairly short order, she died after complications of diabetes and childbirth, along with her newborn son, in 1909. But by the 1910 census, the five children were living with their grandmother in the Monroe Street house. The children grew to adulthood in their grandmother’s home and there is no further mention of their father, alive or dead.

In 1911, the Bergers’ daughter-in-law Caroline, wife of their other son, Elmer, was in a inexplicable carriage accident. On a trip back from the Oddfellows Cemetery when John Berger is buried, she and a friend accepted a ride fro a gentleman passing by in a carriage. On the way home, the back wheel just fell off the carriage for no discernible reason, throwing her into the street where she was badly injured. This is the first bizarre incident involving transportation.

We’ll get to the other one, which happens thirty years later, in part 2 of this article.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Paranormal Parasites--The Fringe Element of the Paranormal World


In the 1920s, the most famous man in the world was arguably Harry Houdini, stage magician and escape artist. While normally this sort of entertainer would have concentrated on making his audiences believe that he possessed some supernatural power, Houdini was different. Not only did he claim the direct opposite, he went a step further. He claimed that no one had arcane abilities of magic or spirit communication, and he put his money where his mouth was.  After his mother died, Houdini tried to contact her through various psychic mediums, but none of them were legitimate. He began to give lectures on fake mediums. In 1924, he wrote and published a book: A Magician Among The Spirits. All year on his 1925 tour, he offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who proved to him that their purported abilities were real. 


No one ever claimed that money.

At the time, the spiritualist movement was huge internationally. Less than a decade after World War I, too many families in Europe, Asia, and the Americas were still dealing with the deaths of their fathers, husbands, and sons. Europe was still in the throes of severe political upheaval, just a few years after the deposition of Tsar Nicholas and his subsequent execution along with his wife and children and only a few years before fascism took hold of a turbulent post-war Germany. If there were people with the ability to contact the dead, their talents and skill had never been more needed. 

And as with so many issues of faith, that terrible fact attracted the worst kinds of snake oil salesmen and exploitative opportunists. Houdini maintained a one-man war against them and was remarkably successful in his pursuit of frauds. After all, who was better situated to know all the tricks of the trade than a man who'd gotten rich from using those tricks to entertain sold-out theaters every night for months? 

Houdini was a magician, yes. But he was also an honest man, who couldn't bear the dishonesty that was coming between people struggling to survive during the Great Depression and their money--money that should have been used to feed and clothe their children instead of rewarding the lies a fake medium concocted. And Harry is perhaps the forefather of the awareness that around any paranormal community, there's a fringe element. I call the inhabitants of that element paranormal parasites, and they're far more common than you think.

As a paranormal researcher, I've encountered these parasites in all sorts of locations and playing all sorts of roles. So for the purposes of this blog mini-series, I'm going to break these down into several groups of paranormal parasites: fakers or false victims; ghost hunters; paranormal clergy; psychics/mediums; demonology; paranormal tourism; haunted objects and paranormal equipment; and paranormal television.

Yeah. I know what you're thinking. "But...but Celina! Are you saying that ALL paranormal stuff is some kind of scam?"

No. What I'm saying is that paranormal parasites can be found at any level of involvement, and skepticism is necessary not only to understand what's happening around you but to protect yourself from something far  more terrifying than cryptids and poltergeists.

Doesn't matter what you believe in, there's nothing scarier than man.

Each identified area will get its own blog post, along with signs of what to look for so that you won't end up becoming the victim of a parasite.

The only way to verify legitimate paranormal activity is to eliminate any and all potential explanations. Any long-time investigator (or Sherlock Holmes fan, for that matter) will inherently understand and agree with this. It's a fact. The only way you can conclusively determine if something is paranormal or supernatural is to eliminate every other possibility. In the paranormal world right now there are too many people desperate to prove that what they believe is a universal fact when in actuality, that's the direct opposite approach to what investigators should be doing.

What we should be doing is trying to prove that what we witness, capture, or believe has a logical, non-paranormal provenance. Anything else is just a subjective experience--an allegation or a claim. And I'm not immune to that rule. All over the paranormal section of this blog are stories of events that I've experienced, documented, or researched. But those stories aren't evidence. You can't consider them proof of anything. BUT, my subjective experiences and observations do serve a purpose from an investigatory standpoint. The can be roadmaps, perhaps, to help investigators find evidence.

For example, I tell the story of my experiences with the Bell Witch Cave and my earliest paranormal research in the post What A Real Night Investigating in Adams Is Like. A significant portion of that post deals with how the rocks in the Bell Witch Cave should *never* be taken home as souvenirs. Heck, I didn't even TAKE a rock; they just showed up in my car. When I take one I missed back to the cave the next day, this is what happens:

The next morning on my way to class, I noticed that we'd forgotten one of the rocks we'd found piled up in the seats. I skipped my afternoon art history class to drive that rock back to Adams and give it back to Mr. Bims. When I got there, he was sitting outside on his lawnmower, and as I got out with the rock he smiled at me. 
Bims Edens was one of those slow-speaking, polite Southern gentlemen. He was so very kind, but he also had a devilish gleam in his eyes sometimes when he smiled. As I told him what had happened, his eyes got that little twinkle in them and he smiled slowly. "I knew something happened," he said. "You've never left before without telling us goodbye and thank you." 
"The rocks were what freaked me out," I confessed. "That's why I thought I'd better make sure to bring this straight back.""Last night the dead men's lanterns were glowing in the woods," he said, looking in the direction of the Bells' old graveyard. "Things was restless last night. Probably one of those stupid kids on the hayride got things riled up. But she gave you a warning, Celina. Better be careful, girl--she let you know that she knows who you are." 
Mr. Bims took the rock, said goodbye, and headed toward the trail. I knew he was going to put the rock back in the cave--like he always put those rocks that came back in the mail from all over. I should have taken it myself and spared the old man the trip, but I knew he wouldn't let me. He believed Kate had given me a warning, and so he'd given me one too.
That's a pretty scary story but one that's ultimately just a subjective experience. There's no proof that the rocks from the Bell Witch Cave are cursed, right? The post was written in October, 2015 about events that happened in October, 1990. But two days ago, on October 6, 2019, the Fourman brothers released a new investigation on their paranormal channel called Paranormal Nightmares: The Haunting of Jackie Bell. And a significant element of that story has to do with the severe haunting of a family after they visited the Bell Witch Cave and brought back rocks as souvenirs.



Here again--this isn't evidence the proves those rocks are cursed. There isn't any scientific method that will verify the existence of a curse. But these two stories corroborate each other. Two events that occurred decades apart to people with no known connection or association but that have similar results. And what makes all this even more interesting is that the Fourman brothers take an EVP meter to one of the rocks from the Bell Witch Cave, and document extremely high EVP readings.

And that is proof--not of the paranormal, necessarily, but of something unusual and different about that rock that marks it as unusual. Paired with both my story and Katharine Bell's story, the meter readings do seem to confirm that there's some kind of evidential trail that stretches from the Bell Witch Cave to subsequent paranormal activity. Now there may be some way to find proof of the Bell Witch haunting, and that's why I hope to investigate the cave again. Now that there's a concrete link, I can hopefully build off my subjective experience and look for additional evidence that can lead to proof of paranormal activity on the old Bell family land.

There's a trail to follow. Sure, it'd be really easy for me (if I was a paranormal parasite) to sit here and say, "See? That's PROOF." But it's not enough to establish the legitimacy of the paranormal on its own. What is DOES do is give me a direction as an investigator, and that I can pursue.

So I will.

Oh and by the way, if you've never watched any of the Fourman Brothers' investigations, you've been missing out on what is one of the best paranormal research groups out there. Go check out this video, and I'm almost positive you'll be hooked. Seem to be great guys, strong investigators, and outstanding storytellers.  Check out their YouTube channel or the first season of their new Paranormal Nightmares show on Amazon Prime.

So settle down, buckle in, and get ready. We're about to take a cold, hard look at the world of paranormal parasites. Hopefully, this will help any of you who are dealing with any sort of paranormal issues to make your own determinations about things impacting you and your life.


Sunday, October 06, 2019

Theater of Power--A Harlequinade Prequel: Check Out The Excerpt Right Here


Before you learn the ending of an epic story, you need to hear its beginning. In Theater of Power, the prequel to the bestselling Harlequinade series you finally get the real story...the real history of the Chevigny, the Montesquieu, the Duc d'Orleans, and the Harlequin~!




Odette de Chevigny hadn't expected to interrupt a confrontation between her stand-offish neighbor, Charles, Marquis de Montesquieu, and a mysterious character who calls himself the Harlequin when she went to her father's grave one cold autumn night, but for some reason, she's immediately intrigued. After her debut at Versailles a few weeks later, she finally figures out why.

Magic.

The court of Louis XV is accustomed to both social and political power being brokered in those endless corridors and stunning salons. The Marquis's longtime enemy, the Duc d'Orleans, is secretly wielding magical power in his quest for the French throne. When she is betrothed to the Marquis, Odette is drawn into their battle...but she's also drawn further into the Harlequin's sphere of influence.

Can Charles and Odette find a way to stop the Duc and protect the King? Or will the Duc prevail, thanks to the mysterious Harlequin? And what is the Harlequin's true goal? When the Marquise de Pompadour said, "After us, the deluge." she couldn't have known she'd just uttered a prophecy. In the theater of power, anything is possible...even changing the course of Time itself.


Grab your copy today on Amazon~ But first, check out the beginning of the story right here! And get ready for the explosive end of the Harlequinade series. After all: 

The theatre, when all is said and done, is not life in miniature, but life enormously magnified, lifehideously exaggerated. --H. L. Mencken

Theater of Power
A Harlequinade Prequel


Prologue

Montesquieu, near Meaux, France—October, 1756

The wind swirled down from the hilltop in the center of the cemetery, stirring the grasses that grew high on the forgotten graves of long-dead people. Farmers, servants, tradesmen, and soldiers all lay beneath those tangled weeds, sleeping in an endless night. While their tombstones crumbled, their bones moldered and lichen obscured the few pitiful dates that were the final proof those lost souls had ever existed. Only the more-recently dead had well-tended graves, with the grass trimmed closely and flowers heaped against pristine white stones.

I had a pair of scissors in the deep pocket of my cloak. I was here to attend to my father’s grave, alone in the middle of the night. I couldn’t bear to be accompanied or to be found sitting by his tomb during the still-warm autumnal sunlight, so I frequently came well after dark. I only felt close to him here, where he slept beneath the same sheltering angel as my mother.  I could sit beside him, and confide my hopes and fears as I always had, without worrying that some passing traveler would think me mad.

I stood alone over his silent earthen bed until another whirr of wind raised gooseflesh on the back of my neck. I slipped into the shadow of the grieving angel, letting the darkness of her wings conceal me as I glanced uneasily at the ornate mausoleum atop the hill.

My face warmed as fear flashed through my veins, and my nerves began to sing uncomfortably against my skin.

Something was wrong here…threatening.

Usually, my father’s grave was a place of refuge, of safety against a world that too often seemed to crowd ugliness into my life. Usually when I entered the graveyard, my father’s love surrounded me like a cloak, protecting me from all the other emotions a cemetery contained. I had been coming now for over a year—at least once a week since my father’s death. I hadn’t met anyone in the graveyard at midnight, which was why I liked it—and I had never felt anything here other than peace.

Until now.

Aside from the brisk wind that carried the first scent of snow on its fingers, the graveyard was silent and still. The path that stretched in front of my parents’ graves continued up the sole hill in the cemetery, until it reached a veritable palace for the dead perched on its summit. A strained glow of light illuminated the pale columns and pediments of the huge mausoleum—the final resting place of the powerful Montesquieu family—as the moon peeked from behind the scudding clouds overhead. The polished marble gleamed silver as the moonlight strengthened, casting deep shadows beneath the tomb’s wall but illuminating the small plateau before the scrolled iron doors. That glow grew, subtly, and a figure slipped from the inky shadows to stand before the doors.

Surely I wasn’t seeing what I thought I was seeing. A mime stood in front of the mausoleum door, apparently regarding the engraved names there with his head cocked to one side.

No, not a mime. A harlequin.

The red, green, and blue triangular patches of his costume had reminded me of the character’s name. A harlequin was usually funny. I’d loved harlequins as a child in Paris, for their capers were as colorful as their costumes.

But this harlequin was different. As I stared up at him from where I was tucked into the protective curve of the angel’s wing, he turned as if he saw me watching. He wore a half-mask of black, revealing a strong jaw and a sensual mouth. Fear traced a white-hot prickle down the back of my neck.

No, this was not a harlequin. This was the Harlequin. For this fiend, the word Harlequin was a title, not a name. All at once I remembered that despite all his handsprings and jauntiness, the Harlequin was always the character that escorted wrongdoers to hell. His antics were just a disguise for his sinister nature.

“What a little beauty.”

The words were purred suggestively right behind me, the speaker’s breath stirring the tiny hairs on my nape. I spun around to find the Harlequin standing just a foot away. He pirouetted and when he faced me again, his lips were quirked into a triumphant half-smile.

“Welcome to the garden of death, sweet mortal. Welcome to the arena where the Harlequin reigns supreme and humanity stands trial. Welcome to the theater of power.” With a stylized flourish of his hands that I could recognize from any two-sou pantomime in Paris, he bowed, making the obeisance at once a mockery and a threat. When he straightened, his eyes narrowed behind his mask.

Involuntarily, I took a step back from his piercing glare, and the tips of the feathers on the angel’s carved wings dug cruelly into the base of my spine.

“Leave the girl alone.”

The low-growled words came from just behind me and I jumped. For a second time, I turned sharply to find a man in this…garden of death, as the Harlequin had called it. His face was obscured by the shadows cast by the hovering angel.

The newcomer’s voice was both tense and disgusted. “She is too young to play your vicious games. Satisfy your malice by contending with me, not her.”

“You are very concerned for this girl’s safety. What of your brother? Would you be willing to wager your care of him to keep this pretty young morsel protected from my…interest?” The Harlequin cocked his head to the side in an exaggerated gesture of inquiry. “Would you forfeit his soul in exchange for this girl’s safety?”

“Your enmity is for me. Are you too much of a coward to face a grown man and so must slake your thirst for cruelty upon a child?”

Before I could protest that I wasn’t a child, my unknown defender stepped between me and the Harlequin, so that I was pinned in place by the weeping angel on one side and protected by his broad, cloaked back on the other. I peeked around his arm to stare as the Harlequin abandoned his languid pose.

“Take care, mortal. Take great care in how you speak to me.”

“Advice you should probably follow yourself,” the man retorted pointedly, resting his hand upon the hilt of his sword. His other arm he extended, shielding me from the fiend confronting us, and said over his shoulder, “You can go now, mademoiselle. Do not stay in the cemetery. Do not tarry; just run as fast as you can and get away home.”

“Will you flee, Odette?” the Harlequin murmured, his eyes glinting through his mask. “Beautiful Odette, young Odette de Chevigny—will you run from this garden of death to your virginal bed in your grandfather’s chateau? Fly now, sweet Odette—”

“How did you—oh! I don’t care how you know my name!” I sputtered at last, freed from the convulsive fear that had kept me silent so far. “I am here to tend my father’s grave and you are keeping me from doing that, both of you. Now get out of my way and leave me alone.”

The Harlequin danced around my protector, his eyes gleaming as his lips stretched into a nasty smile.
“Odette! What a lovely name. Will you not run as your guard bids you?”

“Run? Why should I run?”

The fiend watched me curiously from behind his mask and the man turned to regard me. As the moonlight struck the high-boned features of his face, I recognized him instantly. My defender was Charles, the young Marquis de Montesquieu, the hero of the Battle of Minorca, home after being wounded as he led our troops in the capture of Port Mahon from the British. Especially favored by our King, Louis XV, the Marquis was my grandfather’s nearest neighbor, a decorated officer, and a practiced courtier. He took my elbow in a strong hand and pulled me down the hillside path.

“You need to go home, child. Run! This thing is not what he seems.”

“I am not a child,” I protested even as his fingers tightened warningly on my arm. “Besides, I can’t leave you here alone—with that. Who is this man dressed up like a pantomime performer? And why—”

“Yes, why don’t you tell the child who I am?” the Harlequin asked mockingly. “Not such a child is she, Monsieur le Marquis—not when she’s nineteen and ripe for a man’s hand, this daughter of Reynard, Vicomte de Chevigny?” He ran a hand lovingly along the letters of my father’s name on the tombstone as he pronounced each word, and my blood chilled within my veins.

The Marquis looked down into my face for the first time, and his eyes were shadowed. “Go home, mademoiselle. I will call upon you tomorrow and explain what I can, but you must leave. I cannot protect us both.”

I regarded him thoughtfully. Charles de Montesquieu was supposed to be a stern, almost forbidding man. Almost everyone who lived in the county or associated with him was afraid of angering him. But his laborers loved him, for he was fair and protective of those who depended upon him, and my grandfather, who’d been a close friend and political ally of his father, respected him greatly—something I could say about few men. Even now, his expression was carefully neutral, but I could see the tiniest hints of strain pulling the muscles of his hard-planed face tight with repressed emotion.

“Very well, I shall expect you tomorrow,” I said at last.

“How easily you fall into the trap so blatantly set,” the Harlequin crooned. “Yes, Monsieur le Marquis, go along to see young Odette tomorrow, and explain to her what the Harlequin means. For now she, too, is playing my game, and it would be well for her to understand the stakes—”

“Go now,” the Marquis urged, ignoring the capering villain behind him as he lifted my hand formally to his lips. As soon as he released me, I went around the angel lamenting over my parents’ graves and returned to the path that would lead me to the home of my grandfather and safety. A burst of maniacal laughter rose behind me as I lifted my skirts and ran.

That was the beginning—of everything. At that moment, I had no idea how much that chance meeting in the graveyard would loom over my life.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Sorry, Football Scoop and Scott Roussel, But Butch Jones Should Never Coach Again


You know, I've enjoyed a Butch Jones-free life. It's been pleasant. No stupid gimmicks. No lies. No BS. But now that we're looking at the meat of the football season and the football coaching carousel is about to start up again, some benighted folks--and journalists--are going to do exactly what Scott Roussel did in his column today for FootballScoop.com. They're going to look at Butch Jones as a viable option for a major football program, especially now that Nick Saban has applied a bit of shinola to disguise the you-know-what that's currently "interning" at Alabama so he can milk every drop of cash out of the University of Tennessee.

And Scott Roussel, the president and owner of FootballScoop.com, thinks that Butch Jones should be a head coach again.

For someone who states emphatically "Butch Jones will be a head football coach again", I have a lot of questions. First off, has no one at FootballScoop been paying attention the past few years? Did you just miss everything that happened since 2015? Since that seems to be the case here, let me help you guys understand why Rousel's column was so ill-advised. Let's take a look at why the last man in America who should be permitted to be the head coach of any football program is Butch Jones. 

But first off...

You know, Scott...Butch doesn't seem to be all that impatient to get back into coaching. He's content with bringing Saban his coffee and polishing Bama helmets for $35k a year...and so would I be if I had a $6.82 million dollar buyout. 

Stop and think for a moment. Does it seem like he's chomping at the bit to get back on the field? 

No, and there's a reason for that. 

In order to start the new con game, you have to make sure the previous one is forgotten. You know, the one where every year of Jones's tenure at UT there were 25-35 players on the injury list by mid-October, leading directly to those end of season collapses of extremely talented teams. 

Many of those most promising players, the 4- and 5-star recruits Scott was drooling over now no longer play football at all. On any level. Why? Because the Volunteers football program was abusive under Butch Jones. He overruled team physicians and forced injured players to go ahead and play anyway. One of the best examples of this occurred during the 2016 Tennessee-Texas A&M game. Eight players went down in the game. 

Some never came back. Many of those departed players cited the verbal, mental, emotional, and physical abuse they endured under Butch Jones as the reason for their departure.

You think parents want to entrust their 5-star players to a coach whose primary concern isn't their son's health and safety? It doesn't matter if the recruiting classes were great if those players leave mid-career and go somewhere else. 

Or lose their future in football entirely.

Players have reported that they were used like gang members to keep other players in line. Some players who demonstrated too independent a thought process when it came to the health and safety of their own bodies were jumped on the practice field by his teammates while the head coach stood there and watched it happen. In fact, the head coach had ordered it to happen, like a Code Red from the play/movie A Few Good Men. 

Think that's a great look for your program?

Think...really think about that 2016 season, when Tennessee started off ranked in the top five in the preseason. Over the span of thirteen months--from the kickoff of 2016 to Butch Jones's firing in October, 2017--the Vols went from top-five, to a 9-4 season record, and then, incredibly, to the basement of everything with a 4-8 record in 2017. The first time in UT's history that the school was winless in the SEC, and a full one-third of the team had either left the program or were out with injury by mid-season for the third season in a row.

As for never losing to a bowl-eligible team, what a crock! Tennessee lost to bowl-eligible teams every single season under Butch Jones. Alabama. Florida, Georgia. South Carolina. Oklahoma. West Virginia. Did you miss those 4-7 losses UT racked up every year under Butch Jones?

Not a great job of research there, buddy.

Why is it that the University of Tennessee led the nation in transfer requests for several years? Think that speaks highly of Butch Jones's treatment of players? 

Think it speaks highly of his active obstruction in those requests, costing players not only time on the gridiron but time getting their educations? Many former players reported having their transcripts blocked and their eligibility as well for several years after leaving UT.

What good were all those top ten recruiting classes then? Matriculation doesn't result in a collapse like that. A coach's primary job is to make certain that the team has the right elements in place so the turnover between upperclassmen to underclassmen is seamless. But that didn't happen at UT. 

Why is that? It doesn't matter how great a Vols recruiting class is if the majority don't play for the entirety of their collegiate career at UT. Florida had a top ten recruiting class this year and lost many of those players before the season started. Did FootballScoop cover that? 

Everyone else did, and seemed to agree there was something wrong with the program in order for that to happen. Why wasn't the exodus of players from UT  given the same scrutiny? Did you cover that? 

Did you even know?

Why is it that through Butch Jones' five-year tenure at UT, the Vols consistently collapsed after three quarters only to lose the game in the final minutes? Abysmal coaching decisions. 

Why is it that the most loyal, steadfast fan base in America rose up in rebellion against their own school, forcing the firing of Butch Jones and a few weeks later that of then-athletic director John Currie? Does anyone with a functioning brain really think that was just an uneducated mob of fans raising hell for the fun of it? 

I hope not. It's never a good thing to insult your target market. Just saying. The uprising was spontaneous but it was also focused and well-directed, resulting in an event unprecedented in college athletics. That entire fiasco in the fall of 2017 originated with Butch Jones.

So answer me honestly: why is it that anyone, athletic director, fan, or sports journalist, would want to bring such a toxic element into their own football program? Oh and by the way, we're not just talking about Tennessee here. Maybe you should dig into what happened at the University of Cincinnati during Butch Jones's time there while you're at it, Scott.

Butch Jones left the University of Tennessee an absolute disaster between craptastic athletic training, the abuse and torment of his players, the exodus of talent from Rocky Top, and ruining the lives and futures of multiple great players. and one of the most humiliating episodes in sports history If Butch Jones legitimately had something to offer another program, he'd already be riding the coaching carousel (like Urban Meyer already is) and selling himself (again) as the once and future king of great football. 

But he's not. He's grinning like an idiot down in Tuscaloosa, acquiring that Alabama mystique while he milks the university whose football program he ruined of half a million dollars a month. He's not pimping himself because he intends to get every penny of that $6.82 million dollar buyout, thumbing his nose like a child from his bolt hole in Tuscaloosa. 

Nick Saban's Head Coach Rehabilitation program's court jester, who gives zero damns about coaching again until his internship and his buyout end.

After what Butch Jones did to the University of Tennessee, its fan base, and its athletes (which is the most important of the three) he should never be allowed to set foot on any football field in a position of authority ever again. If some poor wretched school does bring Butch Jones in to "turn around" their program, they are placing the eighty-five young men on their roster in the path of physical, educational, and financial ruin. Period. 

And those are the facts. 

I'd recommend you read two books that detail what was happening at the University of Tennessee football program, Scott. Maybe pass it along to your colleagues there at Football Scoop too. Pick up Mark Nagi's Decade of Dysfunction, and you'll get the background of the last ten years of horror on Rocky Top.  Then grab a copy (I'd be glad to send you one) of Empowered: The Fan ReVOLution That Changed College Football by UT Vol historian Tom Mattingly and Celina Summers. 

Read the interviews with players, alumni, boosters, UT officials, and fans. Actually learn what happened under Butch Jones before you start lauding him as a potential head football coach at some other school. 

Suggesting Butch Jones be hired to coach any level of football is the equivalent of handing a suicidal person a loaded gun and dropping them off somewhere in the middle of nowhere. A responsible person would never consider doing such a thing. 

Be responsible, and learn exactly what you're suggesting before you put it in print. At the end of the day, you're recommending that some other school lose its legacy and self-respect. But you're also recommending that a serial abuser be given exclusive access to the lives and futures of more young football players. 

Is that really what you want to be known for? Are you sure? Because if he is hired somewhere and more of the same happens, you'll bear a measure of responsibility for it. You may be one of those journalists who sat on his self-proclaimed throne when UT fans revolted and condemned us as ignorant, uneducated, ill-informed and so forth. I don't really know; I don't really care. But what I do know as a long-time writer, editor, and publisher is that you need to know what you're talking about before you put it down in print. And in this case, you patently had no clue what the reality Butch Jones created really was.

You should have known better than to be this irresponsible. You should have known to check out the facts. After all, you own FootballScoop, right? And you were a VP at the Shaw Group, a Fortune 500 company dealing with road construction, for eight years, right? You understand at least the concept of journalistic and corporate responsibility. Or, at least, you should.

But you didn't. That's the real football scoop here. Just...think about it. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Demonic Hauntings And Why You Don't Want An Exorcist Who Advertises, Part Two



This is the second part of my two-part article on demonic hauntings and why you don't want an exorcist who advertises. You can read the first half of the article here. But if you're ready, let's get into the scariest possibilities of a demonic haunting.

POSSESSION

Before we get too deeply into this part of the discussion, let's take a moment to consider the fact that true possession is extremely rare. With hauntings, only about 5% of the cases paranormal teams investigate are legitimately haunted. Of legitimately haunted locations, only 5-10% are negative in nature--most are residual, too, and don't involve an intelligent haunting. These kinds of statistics are mirrored when it comes to true possessions. In the same December, 2018 article from The Atlantic, the Catholic priests (who all have over ten years' experience as exorcists) that were interviewed all said they'd worked on "only a handful" of true possessions in their careers.

This is for a couple of reasons. First off, the Catholic church has a seriously thorough discernment process before they commit to an exorcism. Father Thomas laid this out in our LiveSciFi interview as well. Before the church risks the spiritual and physical health both of the victim and the exorcism team, the person is subjected to physical examination and then a psychiatric evaluation. Only if the victim gets through both of those will an exorcist consider whether or not the individual is possessed.

If someone claims you need an exorcism and does NOT require medical and psychological competency testing, run away.

Fast.

You think I'm kidding, but I recently witnessed an "archbishop" who frequently shows up on paranormal television shows tell two people in ten minutes that they were possessed and required an exorcism. He didn't know the history of the two people, their medical history, their psychological state, or their motivations. And neither of these people were walking up walls or spitting up pea soup either. But somehow, this "archbishop" was able to diagnose the need for spiritual warfare within minutes of being in the same place at the same time as the people he alleged to be possessed.

Putting it frankly, that's bullshit.

A true possession occurs when the victim finally succumbs to the diabolical influence in their life that's been gradually breaking them down through the infestation and oppression stages we've looked at already. After suffering through infestation and oppression, the victim is extremely depressed by this point and is on the brink of giving up the only thing the demon wants--their soul.

At the end of the day, the struggles against diabolical agents all come down to the same thing. The longer the victim fights against becoming fully possessed, the worse the paranormal activity surrounding him becomes. Bringing in investigators at this point just endangers them. Only legitimate exorcists can help the victims of true possession--and legitimate is the key phrase here. In my opinion, the majority of legitimate exorcists are within the Catholic church--and you can find those exorcists by contacting the diocesan offices your local priest answers to--along with a very few ordained clergy and demonologists outside the Catholic faith. Sure, the clergy from your family's church are a great option when it comes to blessing a person or location. But to do spiritual battle with the demon(s) behind a possession requires special training, like what's offered at the Vatican's Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum in Rome or its sister school in Chicago. Students do not have to be Catholic priests; the church has opened the doors to exorcist training to practitioners of all faiths. However, there's one place you absolutely do not want to go.

The internet. Why?
Fake Exorcists

Anyone who advertises themselves online as a demonologist or exorcist is neither. Can't be stated any more strongly than that. If an exorcist or a demonologist has to advertise for clients that's a huge red flag. Another huge red flag? They offer "courses" where for $99, you get reading material AND a certificate meant to validate you as a paranormal investigator or a demonologist or an exorcist.

Total BS, folks.

Considering the surge of purported oppression and possession cases in the world, why would an exorcist need to advertise? Exorcist is pretty much at the top of the list of "jobs no sane person wants".  There is NOTHING fun or exciting about confronting a demonic entity. So why would an exorcist need to drum up new clientele?

There are two answers to that question. First, the exorcists who are looking for new clients and more notoriety are the ones who are skulking around on the rotating "guest appearance on paranormal reality shows" list. But second--and pay attention, because this one's the most important--

Remember way up at the top of this article when I quoted the statistics for legitimate hauntings, demonic hauntings, and demonic possession cases? Possessions are extremely rare. So the odds that he'll confront a for-real demon are basically nil. Those odds are always in a fake exorcist's favor. Fake exorcists are snake oil salesmen who exploit their clientele, performing deliverance ceremonies on people who aren't even close to being possessed. They're the equivalent of faith healers who hide chicken livers in their hands and pretend to pull "tumors" from patients' bodies. A fake exorcist demands no medical or psychological exams; they have no real discernment protocols. They are running a huge scam for fame and excitement, which is basically the spiritual equivalent of giving someone chemotherapy for a splinter in their big toe.

Anyone can read from the Roman Ritual--you can download .pdf files online. But the Ritual doesn't have the power to confront a real demon unless the person reading the Roman Ritual has the spiritual backing that ordination in the Church or training and education by the Church or valid religious backgrounds confer.

Beware, too, of variations on the Catholic Church. Learn to differentiate between the REAL Catholic faith, not a fake one claiming to exist because of a schismatic bishop of Utrecht (this digs deeply into dogma, so we'll refrain from getting into this until the paranormal parasites article coming up.) BUT doesn't have a single church he or she preaches at. Seriously. If the "archbishop" who's advertising as an exorcist has no congregation, no link with a legitimate denomination, and if their mailing address is obviously their apartment? That's not a valid member of the clergy. There are purported archbishops out there where the entirety of their religion appears to be an archbishop, three or four bishops, a couple of deacons, and that's about it. They have more clergy than parishioners because there are no parishes. Many fake exorcists claim to be of the OLD Catholic Church. Word to the wise--there is no Catholic Church older than the Roman Catholic Church. There is a schismatic branch called the Old Catholic Church that the Vatican recognizes as a legitimate arm of the Church, but the real Old Catholic Church has things like churches, denominations, Mass, et cetera and doesn't require a mailing address at a strip mall.

So if for some reason you don't want a Roman Catholic exorcist, your best bet is to contact credible paranormal researchers who can set you on the right path.

Like here, for example. Always glad to help. My article on paranormal parasites is coming next, so hopefully I'll be able to help you protect yourself from the diabolical--both human and supernatural. In the meantime, if you have questions or are afraid that you're dealing with a demonic haunting then contact me through this blog or email me through my website: celina(at)celinasummers(dot)com. I'm more than happy to help you find a legitimate paranormal research team and to hook you up with the avenues you need to take to seek help from the clergy.

The REAL clergy.

(By the way, all those cool illustrations? Those are woodcut engravings from 1818's Dictionnaire Infernal by Collin de Plancy--and pretty much the only thing of value to be found in this decidedly fictional demonological lexicon.)