Book review. Case Files of the East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer, by Kat Winters and Keith Komos. 2017.

Order the book here.

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The East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker (nowadays also known as the Golden State Killer) was a prolific rapist and serial killer in California in the 1970s and 1980s. He raped around 50 women, and murdered at least 12 people.

His modus operandi as a rapist was both unique and uniquely terrifying: he would enter a house in the middle of the night, and wake up the occupant sleeping in her bed by shining a flashlight in her eyes or whispering her name. He would tie her up, rape her, and then occasionally spend hours in the victim’s house, eating food from the fridge, going through family photos etc.

In the 1980s he moved to southern California, where he began a new “career” as a serial killer, still applying essentially the same m.o.: enter the house in the middle of the night, wake up the couple sleeping in their bed, tie them up, rape the woman, and then kill both of the victims.

He was never captured. One detective on the case later described the killer: “He was like a ghost out there.” Indeed: he seemed to always be one step ahead of his pursuers.

The craziest aspect of the case is this: despite the prominence of true crime themed shows on television and crimes featured in newspapers etc., the EAR/ONS case remains relative little-known in the public’s mind. Thankfully, that is beginning to change: new books, new television specials and the emergence of “podcasts” are finally leading to this killer being better known in the annals of American serial killers.

However, despite the fact that some books have been written about this case already (two of them by two former detectives who worked on the case), that “Magnum Opus” has been missing, that one book you could place in the hand of anyone who says “never heard of this guy – can you recommend a comprehensive book?

Now we have that book.

Kat Winters and Keith Komos have done true crime aficionados a huge favor by compiling the information pertaining to the EAR/ONS in a concentrated, readable form, making the story read like the real-life thriller (or horror story, rather) that it is.

A surprising aspect of the book is how much previously unknown information it entails. I’ve been following the EAR/ONS case since January 2007, when I first came across a group of people discussing the case on an internet discussion board. Before reading this book, I thought I knew everything there is to know about the case. You can imagine my surprise when page after page contained info I had never heard of before, such as sightings of the EAR/ONS before and after his attacks, statements from police detectives and surviving victims, etc.

Cold Case Files of the East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer is the true crime literature event of the year, and I say that during a year when plenty of great books have been released in the genre. Whether you’re a newcomer or a seasoned Internet sleuth on the terrifying EAR/ONS case, or just a fan of scary stories and unsolved mysteries, this book needs to be on your shelf.

(book review in Finnish) Hukkuminen – kertomus Kumpulan surmayöstä. Kirj. Perttu Häkkinen. (Tammi 2017)

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Voiko Suomen kaltaisessa valtiossa tapahtua oikeusmurhia?

Tämä kysymys on keskeisessä roolissa Perttu Häkkisen dokumenttiromaanissa Hukkuminen – Kertomus Kumpulan surmayöstä. Teos sukeltaa lahjakkaan jalkapalloilijalupauksen ja satunnaisia mallintöitä tehneen nuoren isän, Pedro Avilan, huumehuuruiseen menneisyyteen – pahamaineiseen Kumpulan surmayöhön, siitä saatuun elinkautiseen vankeustuomioon, sekä lopulta vapautumiseen tuomion jälkeen.

Vuonna 2001 Helsingin Kumpulassa sai surmansa 18-vuotias nuori mies, Osku. Mediassa tapausta kutsuttiin Kumpulan kidutusmurhaksi, mikä ainakaan kirjan kuvailujen mukaan ei jäänyt kauas totuudesta. Teon motiivina olivat huumevelat. Asunnolla, jossa surma tapahtui, vieraili yön aikana useita henkilöitä. Kuitenkin vain kaksi sai elinkautisen tuomion: Asunnon omistaja Niko Hantunen, sekä kirjan päähenkilö Pedro Avila.

Tästä tarinamme vasta varsinaisesti alkaa: Avila väittää kivenkovaan, ettei ollut osallisena varsinaisessa surmassa. Hänen mukaansa hän syyllistyi korkeintaan törkeään pahoinpitelyyn, jolloin myös tuomion tulisi olla kevyempi.

Tuomiosta valitettiin, sillä puolustus koki, että tutkinta oli puutteellinen esimerkiksi uhrin kuolinajan osalta. Avilan oikeusavustaja ja perheenjäsenet yrittivät kaivaa kaikki pienet tiedonjyvät esille ja siten saada Korkeimmalta oikeudelta tuomionpurun. Kaikki anomukset peruttiin perusteettomina. Avila päätyi lopulta istumaan pitkän 14 vuoden vankilatuomion.

Tuona aikana kävi syvällä synkissä vesissä – hän koki useita eroja, vastoinkäymisiä ja pettymyksiä. Hän kuitenkin tuli myös toisen kerran isäksi ja löysi sisäisen rauhan buddhalaisuudesta. Jooga, mantrat ja rauhan etsiminen olivatkin avainasemissa selviytymisen kannalta, vaikka tuomio tuntuikin kohtuuttoman pitkältä ja usko oikeusvaltioon mureni atomeiksi.

Kirja itsessään oli varsinainen “page-turner”. Sitä oli vaikea laskea käsistään. Se herätti lukijassa hämmennystä, nosti esille jatkuvasti uusia kysymyksiä ja paikoitellen jopa vihaisia tunteita – voiko näin tapahtua?

Vaikka Avila itsekin myöntää, ettei ole mikään pyhimys, kai meillä jokaisella tulisi olla samat oikeudet? Miksi jotkin merkittävät tiedonjyvät lakaistiin maton alle?

Toki täytyy muistaa, että dokumentti, oli se sitten elokuva tai kirja, on aina tekijänsä kynästä lähtöisin. Se siis peilaa aina tekijän mielipiteitä ja arvoja. Siksi suhtaudun tämänkaltaisiin teoksiin aina hieman skeptisesti, enkä sukella pää edellä johtopäätöksiin.

Kaiken kaikkiaan Häkkisen tyyli kirjoittaa on erittäin miellyttävä. Kirjaa oli helppo lukea, vaikka aihe on raskas ja vaatii pureskelua. Siitä syystä suosittelisin tätä kirjaa myös kaikille aloitteleville “koti-Sherlockeille”. Kirja on kuin hyvin kirjoitettu fiktiivinen trilleri – välillä on helppoa unohtaa, että tarina on tosi.

Interview with game journalist Alexandr Manzos

Alexandr and I discuss the history of horror games by going through the seminal games in the genre chronologically. We also discuss the psychology of fear in games, and offer some tips on creepy games you may not have heard of. 

Alexandr’s sites: amanzos.com / twitter.com/amanzos

(theme music composed by Ossi Nyström – @albatrossiossi on Instagram)

 

 

Interview with Randall Nickerson, director of Ariel Phenomenon

In 1994 a group of kids saw something extraordinary on the outskirts of their schoolyard in Ruwa, Zimbabwe; read on for a more detailed description.

Director Randall Nickerson and his team are making a film about the incident and the effect it had on the children. 

Here’s my interview with Randall.


1) What is the Ruwa UFO Incident, in your own words?

Well, in practical terms: on September 16th, 1994, at Ariel School in Ruwa, Zimbabwe during the morning break at 10:30 a.m., over sixty children from grades one to seven reported seeing lights in the sky and then heard a sound that got everybody’s attention. Then they saw this silver disc-like thing in the trees about 200 yards out from the school yard, and witnessed at least two figures emerge. The beings were short, mostly black in color, and had large eyes. Several of the students reported experiencing some sort of message that was conveyed to them by the eyes of the beings. And then it all disappeared and was gone.

The local and international news media covered it for a while, but it was eventually forgotten by the media. The kids themselves hardly spoke of it again, even to each other.

In a larger sense, the Ruwa UFO incident is one of the largest reported UFO sightings in modern history. It was witnessed by dozens of children, and adults in the surrounding area. The messages some received were focused on the destruction of the planet due to pollution. So it’s timeliness, and its effects on the witnesses, I think draws a lot of people to the story.

2) How many people witnessed the event?

There were over sixty children on the playground that saw all or part of the event.  The grade 1 and 2s were not included in this number, and many of them had also witnessed it. So the actual number is higher. During the days leading up to September 16th, and even during the day on the 16th, there are multiple reports of adult sightings: pedestrians, pilots, and even people in their own homes reported seeing unusual balls of light or other things in the region.

3) How did you guys become involved with the events? When and how did the idea of a documentary come up?

A woman contacted me who is a friend of Dr. John Mack, a Harvard psychiatrist who traveled to Zimbabwe to interview the children, and is a main character in the film. She showed me John Mack’s interviews with these children and I was blown away – not only by their story, but by their earnest responses. They seemed to be very clearly telling the truth in these video tapes. So I was originally commissioned by her and the John Mack Institute to make a small film about the incident; as soon as I started investigating it, it became clear that this was an incredible story involving so many credible people…I knew it had to be a feature-length film.

There were a lot of compelling pieces to the story that made it great for an investigation: to have an incident happen and have so many media organizations cover it right after the event – and to be able to track down the footage, as I did, is pretty unusual. I have six sources of archival video from that time. Immediately after the event, the children were separated and asked to draw what they saw – those drawings still exist, or at least there is footage of them from that time, which is a unique part of the story.

Once I found out that the Ariel School itself was still in existence – some thought it had closed, or burned down – I just made plans to go despite the dangerous situations in Zimbabwe in 2008.  And I went again in 2010 and the end of 2015.

Of course, tracking down all of the student witnesses as adults was a huge project as well, but it was amazing to find and speak to the same children who appeared in the news footage from that time – and hear them tell the same story to me. I conducted interviews in the USA in 2011, in England in 2012, and in Canada in 2015.

4) You have tracked down some of the people who were there to witness the incident first hand. How did that day change their lives?

Yes, I have found quite a few of the students, who are adults now and up to all sorts of great and interesting careers. They, for the most part, want to keep their privacy, because for many it was a hugely traumatic thing they went through, and many people still don’t believe them. The incident is still very much with them, and they can recall it as is it were yesterday. But they’ve been able to live their lives – I think for a lot of them, it just opened up their eyes to think outside the norm, and to know that we don’t have all the answers, as a society. They are brilliant, thoughtful, sane members of their communities and I hope this film can change the perception of experiencers from “fanatical” to just plain normal people who saw something inexplicable – and who oftentimes want to forget that it ever happened to them.

5) Harvard Professor of Psychiatry John E. Mack personally investigated the Ruwa Incident. What was his conclusion?

The Ariel School case really had a big impression on him. And he had been interviewing other UFO witnesses from other locations at the time, because he was studying this phenomena in general; he had met several people that he could not diagnose with mental illness or anything else that were telling these stories, including abduction cases. So when it came to the Ariel children: after the extensive interviews in 1994 that he conducted, he absolutely believed they had seen something and were telling the truth about their experiences. I think the Ariel School story encouraged him to go even further publicly on this issue, which nearly led to him being removed from his tenure at Harvard. His story arc is covered in the film as well.

6) What’s the “angle” your documentary approaches the Ruwa Incident from? What can we expect from your film?

We keep an open mind, in both directions. We lay out the facts, and a lot of the interview footage, to let the audience draw their own conclusions. We want to present any skepticism or other theories that exist, but the truth is, there aren’t that many convincing arguments to explain what it was. So we ask, through the film, “how does the sighting of something inexplicable change one’s life?” And then we explore the question: what have all of the witnesses, and John Mack, and Tim Leach – who was the BBC reporter first on the scene, and was also greatly effected by this story – done with this experience in their lives?

7) How long have you been working on the film?

It’s been just about ten years this fall, since I started transferring the John Mack tapes. At first I thought it would be a small film I could do on my own, but as the story unfolded I realized I needed help. It’s been a challenge and journey, financially – making a feature-length film averages about $300,000 – $1 million. A lot of people don’t know that, and don’t know that one’s first film can very often take seven to ten years, if you’re doing all your own fundraising – which I am. So it’s been a mixture of film making, then putting the film on hold while I fundraise, then back to filming and editing, for the last ten years. I’m glad now to have a strong team in the edit room and outreach departments to get us past the finish line; we have Christopher Seward, who does a lot of story editing for documentaries and has worked on several of Michael Moore’s films, helping out. But these things are not cheap. We are still in need of funds to make this thing a class act in the next six months: we need to give it the story support it needs in the edit room, and keep these people working on the project. We need to have music composed, master the film professionally, etc. We are very much in fundraising mode right now, while we simultaneously editing our first full cut.

8) When is it coming out? Will be out in theaters or will it have a DVD release?

We’re looking at Spring 2018. We don’t have a distribution plan laid out yet, but I would really love to see it in some theaters. Yes, I’m sure DVDs and digital downloads will be a part of the distribution when it happens. We will keep you posted.

9) Where can people follow and, if they want to, support your work?

We’d love your followers to join the conversation! Our website is http://www.arielphenomenon.com. We’re active on FacebookTwitterReddit & Instagram at @ArielPhenomenon.

Our current Indiegogo Campaign is at: https://igg.me/at/arielfilm/x/10708920

Look for an upcoming interview with myself and one of the student wintesses on The Unexplained with Howard Hughes soon – we’re recording an interview with him on Thursday Oc.t 12, so it will air soon after that. The Podcast UFO with Martin Willis will be having us on Oct. 20. And we have a Reddit AMA that we are aiming to have on Oct. 20, so please stay tuned for more details and join us during that, as well. And of course, share us with all of your friends and networks to spread the word. Thank you!

Interview with former Scientologist Saina Kamula

Saina Kamula is a Finnish-American lady who was raised into Scientology, but ultimately made her way out of the religion. She was recently featured on an episode of the television show Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.

Here’s my interview with Saina.


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(photo credit AETV / “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath”)

1) Where were you born?

Stockholm, Sweden but both parents are Finnish

2) What does Finland mean to you nowadays? Have you visited lately?

I was just in Finland for about 1-2 months until beginning of August this year. Went and visited family after walking the Camino.
I lived there about 6 years ago or so as well, for a year or two while my beloved grandma was suffering from dementia and I wanted to be with her.
Finland will always be one of my main two homes… LA being the other. I have many family and friends there.
3) Your mother took you with her from Finland to the United States when you were very young. What was that experience/journey like?
We actually stopped via Copenhagen first but there wasn’t any school or place for children there. I’d get lost in the streets of the city there sometimes (which was scary for a 7 year old!) so they – the Church of Scn – moved us to LA.

I didn’t speak English so the transition was extremely difficult. Unable to communicate made me a prime target for bullies. My mom had to get her indoctrination/training to be a staff member in the Sea Org.

4) In your own words, what is Scientology? How does it differ from, say, Christianity?
Essentially an applied (meaning you have to actually use what you learn) technology to improve your conditions (states of existence) in life and how you (as a “thetan” – spirit) relate to yourself, others, the universe and the like.
Scientology doesn’t state there is a specific higher power, although honestly LRH is sort of deified as the most perfect man that ever existed. They do leave that open to interpretation a bit with the “8th dynamic” which is the Supreme Being but that’s about it.
 5) Your mother was in the “Sea Org”. What is it?
It’s the “elite” of Scientology comprised of the most dedicated Scientologists Basically you sign a billion year contract (not kidding) and service all the other scientologists who lead relatively normal lives and just come to the organizations for auditing (aka counseling) or training/courses or manage the organizations that do .
It’s different In that they live together, you can’t have sex or even heavypet before marriage, you eat cafeteria style with everyone and work for little to no wages (most will get $50 per week although when I was in the sea org from age 12 to 2 days before my 18th birthday, there were months where I got no pay and I had to resort to stealing shampoo, tampons and basic necessities). You have little time off… maybe every Sunday morning after cleaning. If you want any more time than that, you have to request approval. You can’t leave the property area on your own free will without permission and have to usually go with 2 other people.

6) What is a childhood and youth in Scientology like?

Well, I was indoctrinated young and that’s affected me to this day. For instance: You’re taught that sympathy is “low toned” as is any other tone level (I’ll send you copy of tone scale as attachments) that’s like grief, anger, etc below 2.0 (which is antagonism) so you’re taught to basically repress any of those seemingly negative things and act as if everything is fine.
I also wasn’t just raised a scientologist but as a Sea Org member’s daughter (and future sea org member) which is quite different. Regular scientologists can grown up relatively normal in that parents can have their own home, have work outside Scn (if they wanted to) and do all the normal things other kids can do.
Us Sea Org member kids had our own “school”, lived in sub standard living conditions in dorms and were basically groomed for the sea org. We never were given a choice as to what we’d become when we grew up and were simply told constantly that we were going to be “Clearing the planet” (Sea Org goal). Our school had no real curriculum and we were made to study Scn courses too. I joined the sea org at 12 and left 2 days before my 18th birthday.
7) Scientology employs some very unorthodox methods in raising young people. What are some of these methods, and what are they aimed towards? In other words, what is the “Ideal Scientologist” like when she has grown into adulthood in Scientology?
This is what they say on their website:

“WHAT DOES SCIENTOLOGY SAY ABOUT THE RAISING OF CHILDREN?

L. Ron Hubbard has written a great deal about raising children. In Scientology, children are recognized as spiritual beings, occupying young bodies. This does not make them any less a person and they should be given all the love and respect granted adults. Scientologists also believe children should be encouraged to contribute to family life and not just be “seen and not heard,” as the old saying goes.

Most children raised in good Scientology homes are above average in ability and quickly begin to understand how and why people act as they do. Life thus becomes a lot happier and safer for them”.

Again, I grew up as a “cadet” so I personally grew up in a very military-esque type environment where we had to muster before and usually after meals and other random times. If you “backflashed” (talk back basically), you’d have to do push-ups. We had an obstacle course we’d do daily, we marched in formation for hours and hours and had punishments like running laps, cleaning and eating out of the dumpster, etc
Scientologists believe we are ageless as thetans (spirits) and we’ve learned everything in previous lifetimes and so, with that reasoning, not much importance is placed on having a proper childhood nor education… a dedicated scientologist would be proud if their child joined the sea org. Of course, if a child scientologist grow up to be rich and successful, even better for the church since they are then pressured into donating more and more
8) Celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta are paraded around as living advertisements for Scientology. The experience of the normal scientologist is, however, quite different from the experience of a millionaire film star, I imagine ?
Again, I had a more severe scientologist upbringing than most non Sea Org kids so can’t speak for them but we were treated as assets whereas celebrities are given the red carpet treatment. Whenever celebrities were rumored to be coming for whatever reason, we’d be made to clean up and make everything look presentable. Most celebrities usually went to Celebrity Centre where they catered to such types.
9) Having read Going Clear a few years ago, I can easily say that L. Ron Hubbard is one of the most peculiar people I have ever heard of. How is he presented to Scientologists within the cult? A messiah?
Pretty much. He’s looked at as a perfect man … one who figured it all out. They have busts and pictures of him everywhere. Even as a kid, I remember seeing framed photos of him at our “school” in every single classroom and common areas.
10) You suffered through some very, very dark times in Scientology when you were young. What were those experiences like? What caused them? (no need to answer this if ou don’t feel comfortable!)
Apparently the church in Stockholm wouldn’t let my mom leave with me when I was young and so my grandmother decided to go and get us both and leave back to Finland.
I rarely saw my mom, even as a young kid, since she was always working for the church. My grandmother is who I remember when I think of Finland and the early years there after Sweden.
While at a babysitter my mom had found for me, I was molested by the babysitter’s daughter repeatedly.
We then moved to Copenhagen but then soon left for LA when I was roughly 7 years old.
When I was about 8-9, I’d been bullied at the school and a teacher who seemed nice offered to let me play video games at his office. I jumped at the chance of getting away from my tormentors not realizing the teacher was grooming me and would then molest me repeatedly.
I tried to tell a teacher about it after my mom refused to let me go back to Finland. She called me a liar and said I was nattering (criticizing someone which in Scn indicates you’ve committed some sins against person you’re talking about). I was then forced to write down full confessional essentially with all my sins and made to make amends with the group
11) Your best friend is Mirriam, another woman who went through a similar path in and out of Scientology. How did you meet her? How important has she been in your journey towards healing from your experiences?
We met when I moved to LA. I didn’t speak English at first so we weren’t necessarily friends until about a year later but then we hit it off. We both enjoyed reading and writing and bonded over that.
It’s so hard for me to describe how much Mirriam means to me. It’s hard enough to relate to people due to my upbringing and her and I not only grew up together like that but we’ve stayed in touch even when she left. She has been my rock and we’ve just been there for each other for decades. She is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. She is beautiful, strong and the best friend I could ever ask for and I doubt I would even be alive were it not for her.
12) How did your journey out of Scientology start? Did one specific event trigger it, or did the process start over time?
I was raped by someone I grew up with, another Scientologist. It was such a shock. I had such a controlled response to the incident and pretended everything was fine. But when I started having panic attacks, gained tons of weight despite dieting and exercising and when I started having flashbacks and strong suicidal urges, I sought help. From there, all the past trauma just popped up and I started getting angry which got me to reach out to Mike Rinder as I wanted to finally face and try to resolve the issues.

13) What is the actual, technical process of leaving Scientology like? Do you simply sign some paper and then turn in some materials that belong to the church, and then you’re free to leave?

Most non Sea Org Scientologists usually just fade out of it… they stop going to courses and services, although they’ll sometimes be hounded by phone, email or even in person, to come back.
For Sea Org members, you have to go through a process. Usually you’ll be put on “decks” (made to do labor intensive work) while undergoing a Confessional. And usually they’ll try to pressure you into staying so you have to be really resolved in getting out. For instance, when I left, one of the Ethics/Justice executives sat me down and locked me in a room to tell me (for about 3 hours)  how I wouldn’t make it in the outside world and even very openly implied I would probably even kill myself and went on about how evil and degraded the outside world (“wog” world) is. You then sign some legal paper where you say you can’t sue them or whatever….. I don’t remember what it says
14) Scientology is notorious for those hecklers they send after some people who leave the cult. Did they do this to you?
I’m a nomad. I travel too often and have no real address for them to do that to me. I’m sure they would’ve liked to though.
15) What has your life been like after leaving Scientology? What are you up to these days? Has the church left you alone?
The day I left the Sea Org was the most magical day… I met so many different people on the Greyhound bus they put me on and I felt so free. Unfortunately, I was still straddling the fence about Scientology since it was all I knew and the only support system I thought I had (in retrospect, I wish I had reached out to my Finnish family since they would’ve helped me but I was still brainwashed with how Us VS Them Scientology was and didn’t feel like I was a part of that family anymore). So I stayed with it for a while.
I will say this though: I have experienced SO much since leaving. Things I never could’ve done had I stayed in Scientology. I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon, rim to rim. I have walked the Camino Frances, way of St James (from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain). I’ve gone skydiving a few times and want to get my solo permit, I’ve attempted the Pacific Crest Trail (got about 650 miles in before getting injured) and was able to be a contributor on a long distance hiking iTunes featured podcast, seen incredible sights and hiked in so many different states. I’ve reconnected with my family in Finland, got to travel some more and volunteer and make an actual difference in people’s lives (something I thought I was doing when in the Sea Org).
The church has publicly labeled me an enemy and a “Suppressive Person” so have lost hundreds of friends. Got hate mail from people from the church and the church continues to monitor mutual friends to see if they’re still friends with me. If they are, they get talked to about how they have to “disconnect” from me (Scientology practices “disconnection” which is essentially shunning). My mom refuses to talk to me (although we’ve never been that close, she is still my mom and I wish we could at least try to work on our relationship).
16) Did Scientology ruin your ideas about religion and spirituality? Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
I find Mother Nature to be my faith… trees and the forests are like my temple and lakes/oceans are my holy water. I have a hard time with organized religion for sure but respect everyone’s right to believe what they want to, especially if it’s not harming anyone.

And finally, my usual questions I ask all my interviewees:

17) Your top 3 films

Oh man…. this one is hard. I feel like I’m going to slap myself for missing some other movie later but oh well 😄

In no real order: Into The Wild (amazing book and love the soundtrack), The Exorcist and Zoolander

18) Your top 3 books
The Alchemist. Dracula. Not sure if it counts since it’s poetry but I have read the Essential Neruda book countless times. If that doesn’t count, maybe Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
19) What model phone do you use? (my personal, quirky tech geek question :))
I’m out of date with phones… I have a 6s