Charlie Hintz is a collector and curator of the bizarre. He runs the website Cult of Weird from the backwoods of weird Wisconsin.
Please tell our readers a little about your background and how you became interested in the more unusual side of life. What inspired the creation of Cult of Weird?
“I was a weird kid. I grew up on ghost stories and the occult, being raised to believe members of secret societies in high levels of government were trying to sacrifice me to the devil. I really had no chance of being a normal, functioning member of society. As I got older, that fear evolved into obsessive curiosity. So it turned out okay, I suppose, if you look past the life of crippling anxiety and debilitating paranoia.
I spent the majority of my childhood either wandering around the woods by myself looking for something out of the ordinary, or filling notebooks full of stories. When Windows 98 came out, I was still trying to write and design graphics on an archaic Windows 3.1 system with something like 4mb of RAM. If I felt particularly ambitious, I had an electric typewriter. So by the time I bought a real computer in 2000, I was desperate to learn how to utilise that power. I immediately began teaching myself HTML, Photoshop, video editing and sound production in hopes of doing something creative with all the madness collecting in my head. After a few successful, but ultimately misguided websites that helped pay my bills and get the practical design and marketing experience I needed, I finally conceived of cultofweird.com in 2010.”
What was your original vision for Cult of Weird, how has it evolved over the years, and where will you take it in 2015?
“Five years ago when it began, Cult of Weird was really just a simple blog where I was compiling information on topics I was researching at the time. I wanted to create an online museum of sorts, with “exhibits” featuring extraordinary objects and mysteries. The format is definitely becoming more journalistic over time, though, and I think it will continue to evolve into more audio and visual realms as time and resources allow.
In the last couple of years the Cult has really taken on a life of its own. Even when I haven’t had time to work on it, the community still grows and demands attention. For that reason, I hope to begin working with more guest writers in the near future.
On another front, Cult of Weird will be making it’s first appearance at author Tea Krulos’ upcoming Milwaukee Paranormal Conference on June 6, 2015. The event will feature panels, guest speakers, vendors, etc. I’ll be wandering around taking photos and making the most of the opportunity to meet some of the area’s most influential paranormal researchers. I’m tired of sitting in front of a computer all the time. I want to get Cult of Weird out into the real world.”
As a Wisconsinite, what are some of your favourite places to visit in your home state? Why do you think Wisconsin is home to so many unusual people, places, and events?
“A pilgrimage to Plainfield every couple of years is an absolute necessity. It is still a pretty remote, isolated place, not difficult to understand how Ed Gein managed to slip into psychosis there. Also, House on the Rock, the bizarre snub to Frank Lloyd Wright’s nearby Taliesin, is like stepping inside the digestive tract of some insane alternate reality. It’s as much about obsession as it is ingenuity and wonder.
Why Wisconsin, or the Midwest in general, seems to have an unusually high concentration of weirdness…I don’t know. I’ve made it my life’s mission to tell the stories, but I don’t have any explanations. It probably comes down to boredom, isolation, cabin fever. What else do we have to do besides turn people into lampshades? Idle hands, you know. A stifling religious community built on archaic and oppressive superstitions may also have something to do with it. And too much fertiliser in the water.”
What do you make of 19th and early-20th Century discoveries of giant skeletons in the Midwest? What were some of the most notable discoveries in Wisconsin?
“I have always been intrigued by the references to Nephilim in the book of Genesis, the “men of renown” who were apparently giant hybrid offspring of angels and human females. The apocryphal texts, as well as the Sumerian myths that inspired Old Testament stories, seem to support the idea. Mythologies across all ancient cultures include giants. Whatever their origins, it seems clear that extremely tall beings once existed on the Earth in some form. But the topic infuriates people, even when discussed on Cult of Weird, where I strive to curate an open-minded perspective. Fervently discounting the possibility is as equally distressing to me as mindlessly believing in it.
Here in Wisconsin, there have been several significant accounts of giant remains excavated from burial mounds. This may be due to the presence of Aztalan, a city built by the Middle Mississippian mound builders near present day Lake Mills. It is believed to have been an important northern outpost for the culture, thriving for 400 years before being abruptly abandoned around 1300 AD. It is notable that only a few burials have been found at Aztalan, none of which were giants. Mounds in nearby areas, however, have yielded bizarre claims.
The most incredible discovery was reported by the New York Times in 1912. The article details the discovery of 18 giant skeletons near Lake Delavan ranging in height from 7.6 to 10 feet in height. There were other remarkable features as well, such as elongated skulls, double rows of teeth, and extra fingers and toes. The article refers to the remains as a “heretofore unknown race of men.””
We recently interviewed J. Nathan Couch, author of Goatman: Flesh or Folklore. Are you familiar with Goatman sightings in Wisconsin? What is your opinion of the Goatman legend?
“There are two roads near my hometown that eventually every teenager must explore because Goatman lives there. I’ve been to both, though I have yet to experience anything unusual. Nate has uncovered some compelling encounters, however, which he discusses in the book. One in particular, which he usually shares with groups during his ghost walks, is an unusual sighting in the woods by someone who seems to have been genuinely terrified. I am always a skeptic of the paranormal, but people must be seeing something. I would like to know what it is.”
How can our readers contact you if they would like to know more about Cult of Weird or contribute to your website?
“The best place to start is http://www.cultofweird.com for weird news and other oddities. Send weird news, photos, videos and other media to firstname.lastname@example.org”