The Ghost Brothers are paranormal superstars and they join us this week to talk about their journey and the new season of FRIGHT CLUB with Jack Osbourne. In part two, Chris Williamson joins us to talk about the strange disappearance of Amelia Earhart and why people are still fascinated by it.
You can find FRIGHT CLUB on Travel Channel and Discovery+
You can find Chris’ book on the Earhart disappearance at Amazon: Rabbit Hole: The Vanishing of Amelia Earhart & Fred Noonan
Thanks to Dalen, Juwan, Marcus and Chris!
ParaBox Monthly is your source for amazing one of a kind paranormal t-shirts that will lead you into an online paranormal mystery. Go to ParaboxMonthly.com/jim to get a 25% discount!
JIM HAROLD: Big show today. We start off with the Ghost Brothers of TV fame; then we’re going to talk with Chris Williamson about the strange disappearance of Amelia Earhart – up next on the Paranormal Podcast.
This is the Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold.
JIM HAROLD: Welcome to the Paranormal Podcast. I am Jim Harold, and so glad to be with you today. We’ve got a great show on tap for you. We have the Ghost rothers of TV fame and then we have Chris Williamson joining us to talk about the strange, if not paranormal, disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Looking forward to that.
One quick personal note: I wanted to thank you all for your well wishes. Dar came down with “the affliction,” with COVID. She is recovering. She tested negative; she’s out of isolation. She still feels like she’s been hit by a ton of bricks, but what I understand is that’s pretty normal. So thank you again for all of your well wishes, and she thanks you as well. Thank goodness everything has turned out okay, and we’re cautiously optimistic for a full recovery. So thank you for that.
Next up, we are going to start the show, and we have a great one. It may not be paranormal, but we’re going to talk about the very strange disappearance of Amelia Earhart. But first we’re going to talk with the Ghost Brothers. They are promoting Season 2 of Fright Club with Jack Osbourne on the Travel Channel every Friday at 10 p.m. Eastern, and also new episodes launch the same day on Discovery+.
Gentlemen, welcome to the show and thank you for joining us to talk about Fright Club and also talk about your niche in the paranormal world and all the success you’ve had. Thank you for being a part of the show.
JUWAN MASS: Thank you for having us.
JIM HAROLD: I’ve seen interviews and things with you; you guys went to college together, friends, and you said, “Let’s start investigating ghosts.” But I have a feeling there’s more behind it than that. Could you tell us a little bit about maybe paranormal experiences in your early life? Did that play a part? What were your paranormal experiences growing up, if you had any?
DALEN SPRATT: For me personally, I was visiting my grandmother in West Texas. It’s a small town in West Texas called McCamey. Long story short, everyone in the town knows everyone. My cousin had a friend; she was dating a guy, and they got into a domestic dispute and he ended up shooting himself and shooting her. She ended up surviving, my cousin’s friend, and he ended up dying.
Like I said, everyone knew everyone in the town, so my grandmother and her friend decided to go view the body. They took seven-year-old me with them. I remember walking into the funeral home and seeing the casket, seeing the young man lying there. My grandmother’s friend asked had I ever touched a dead body before. At seven, I strongly told her no. She put my hand on the chest of the guy in the casket.
Crazy, but later on that night, I remember waking up in the middle of the night and vividly seeing that man literally standing there, staring at me.
JIM HAROLD: Whoa.
DALEN SPRATT: Yeah, it was crazy.
JIM HAROLD: So that was it. The die was cast.
DALEN SPRATT: Yeah, that was it, man. Seven years old. I know what I saw. I was just always curious, was I dreaming, or did I really see what I thought I saw? And now, after doing this for so long, I understand what an attachment is. I understand what a residual haunting is. I understand how all that stuff works, and I really do believe I saw what I saw.
JIM HAROLD: That’s the thing. When you talk to regular folks who experience something, skeptics will say, “Eh, there’s nothing to it. There’s nothing going on.” But you look somebody in the eye, just a normal, average, everyday person, and when they say, “I know what I saw” – to me, that cuts through. Do you guys have that experience? When you meet with these people, do you have a radar that goes off, like, “This person’s telling me the truth and leveling with me”?
MARCUS HARVEY: Yeah. We call it a gas detector, if somebody’s gassing us up, or a cap alert. We do hear a lot of really, really exaggerated stories, but even as exaggerated as they might sound, people show us videos, proof. Not like doctored-up videos. Like you couldn’t doctor that up. You know what I’m saying?
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, I know what you’re saying.
JUWAN MASS: I would definitely say even despite the lack of evidence, just hearing somebody tell a story with conviction, you find yourself like, “I may not know if that’s true, but I can say I believe you.” From a very human standpoint, it’s like, “You sound extremely convicted in your truth and what happened, and I’m not here to say that you’re lying.” I think it’s admirable to be able to share something so vulnerable.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, I do a show called Campfire – been doing it for 13 years, and people call in with their experiences. I had a guy call in that said he saw a leprechaun. Now, it seemed kind of wild, but if you think about it and you break that down – when he was a little kid, he said he saw this – maybe he saw some kind of being and that’s the only way that his mind could understand it. So to him it was a leprechaun.
It turns out that years later his brother said, “Oh, you saw him too?” They had never talked about it. So that seems weird, like “You saw a leprechaun?”, but I tend to believe people. Sometimes people snow you, sometimes people aren’t telling the truth, but I think for the most part people are being sincere with these stories.
Now back to my first question. Juwan, before we hit record, you said you had a paranormal experience, or paranormal experiences, growing up. What happened to you?
JUWAN MASS: I did. I was about 12. I was in the South as well, in Mississippi. Near my grandmother’s house there’s a cemetery across the street, and the kids in the neighborhood, most of them were relatives of mine. We would dare each other to run through that cemetery at night. I took the dare. I was like, “I’ll run through it.”
So we all go across the street, it’s the middle of the night – I mean, I think it’s the middle of the night, but low key, as kids, it was probably like 9:00. The street lights had probably just come on. It wasn’t too late. But I’m walking through the woods and I get to the cemetery and I just take off running. I’m halfway through the cemetery and I feel the presence of someone running behind me. Immediately I’m thinking it’s one of the other kids in the neighborhood running with me, and I turn around and I don’t see anybody.
MARCUS HARVEY: It was old Otis.
JUWAN MASS: It was who?
MARCUS HARVEY: Big man Otis. Security guard.
JUWAN MASS: [laughs] It was the security guard, talking about a trespasser? Nah, there was nobody behind me. So I continue to run, and I hear this presence of something still running behind me. I could feel something is fast approaching. I’m like, I don’t know if I can outrun a ghost, and at this moment I’m trying, but at that moment I realized there was something there that I couldn’t see. I knew there was something out here more than I could explain. It was just a weird energy.
JIM HAROLD: What about you, Marcus? Did you have any paranormal experiences growing up?
MARCUS HARVEY: No, but little did Juwan know that he actually had the NFL Combine when he was 12. Coach, “Hey, son? You want to run my football? I like how you’re running out there. If you could be the ghost, you could be on my team. You could play for North Texas. Hey son, we’ve got four, five State Championships, son. Let’s go.”
JIM HAROLD: [laughs] That’s an important thing about you guys, because you feel humor is important to what you do. Talk about the role of having a good time and bringing some humor forth, and not always being so serious about all this stuff.
JUWAN MASS: I feel like for us, every entity that we’re trying to discover used to be alive, and we all know that whenever you’re communicating with somebody, your charm is a big role in how much they’re open to you.
So we use our humor, our charm, and keep it very relevant to where we don’t make whatever entity we’re speaking to – we’re not looking at them as a test subject, more so trying to get answers. I think that’s why we get a lot of results the way we do, and even just get the type of response that we get. It’s because we’re authentic. We bring every element to the human experience to the paranormal. It’s not just challenging something you don’t see that’s there. Everybody can act tough when ain’t nothing there, and say, “Come out and show yourself!” But if something came out and showed itself, then they’d start turning –
JIM HAROLD: Are you guys fans of provoking or not?
JUWAN MASS: Nah. Do what you got to do. If you’re going to provoke, provoke. If you’re a humorous person, humor. We’re just proponents of whatever your style is. Whatever your style is, do that. And if you get results from that, continuously do that. That’s how you find your own way.
JIM HAROLD: Dalen, what are ghosts? What do you think ghosts are?
DALEN SPRATT: Man, listen, I’mma be honest with you. I try not to give a definitive response when I get asked questions like that because we don’t know. All I can always say is I don’t know what is after this, but I do know that there is something after this, and that I know 100% just from the stuff that we’ve done, just seeing things. We’ve seen apparitions, we’ve seen spirits, we’ve been touched, doors opened, slammed, windows – I don’t know what it is. Is it energy? Is it the spirit, the soul of someone? But then if you read the Bible, believe in Christianity, then that doesn’t really align. It could be –
JIM HAROLD: You just know it is.
DALEN SPRATT: That’s the beauty of what we do, though, because you don’t know. You’re forever asking questions and forever learning and forever exploring.
JIM HAROLD: This goes to any one of you who wants to answer. Do you think there are evil energies? I talk to New Age people and they’re like, “Man, there’s no such thing as evil. There’s just lower levels of vibration.” I’m like, eh, I think there’s evil. That doesn’t mean every time a faucet leaks or door squeaks it’s a demon, but I do think there’s evil. What do you guys say?
MARCUS HARVEY: In short, yeah. I definitely think there’s evil. If you ask somebody if there’s good, they will usually say yes. And I think you’ve got to have the opposite of that. But to your point, I don’t believe every disturbance you hear, every type of activity you come across is something demonic. I think you can have a benevolent spirit. I think you can have peaceful encounters. But I also think you can stumble across something evil. I think there are evil people walking this world, and if they’re evil when they’re alive, I think you can surely have evil or evil can be represented in the afterlife.
JIM HAROLD: I’ve heard people say that if a ghost is a jerk when they’re alive, they’re a jerk when they’re dead. If a ghost is a good person when they’re alive, they’re a good ghost. Do you believe that? Do you think that behavior carries over?
DALEN SPRATT: Wait, you said becoming a ghost is like getting money? Now you acting all brand new? “I knew you were a jerk!”
JUWAN MASS: I think so, because we find – even doing random investigations, there’s been instances where someone’s home was inhabited, and they started smelling cigar smoke and it’s the same scent that was from the father who used to smoke them in the house. It’s like, okay, if you can carry that element over into the afterlife, why wouldn’t you carry over other traits, other circumstances or instances?
MARCUS HARVEY: Just characteristics and stuff, yeah.
DALEN SPRATT: I didn’t want you to bring up how my cousin pulled you to the side at that family reunion and told you about our Uncle Jackie who had cigarettes. You see, that’s why you don’t share everything with your friends.
JUWAN MASS: It’s a strong smell of menthol every time.
DALEN SPRATT: Every time I’ve been in the basement I hear “Last Two Dollars” by Johnny Taylor and I smell Newports. Every time.
JIM HAROLD: [laughs] I guess like in everything in life, you’ve got to have a sense of humor about it. There’s an old saying, “No matter how I struggle and strive, I’ll never get out of this world alive.” You take it serious to a point, but you’ve got to have fun with it too.
MARCUS HARVEY: Right. I think that’s just our personalities. You could’ve got any three other guys and you might’ve had two straight and narrow people, three people that don’t have a sense of humor. But we’re just three – and that’s another thing. A lot of shows across television, period, are forced cast. These are people that didn’t know each other before and they’re brought together to make a television show. If their chemistry, their personalities work, it can work.
You’re dealing with guys who’ve literally been best friends for 20+ years who have the desire of television or the interest in paranormal. So of course we’re going to have inside jokes from 15 years ago that might trigger a response in something that we’re doing today. That’s how our chemistry and the humor lives within us.
JIM HAROLD: When you did this – I saw you on Stephen Colbert, Today Show, you’ve got Ghost Brothers, Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests. You’ve got this new show, Season 2 of Fright Club with Jack Osbourne on the Travel Channel. Did you have any feel that it was going to take off like this and you guys were going to become paranormal superstars?
MARCUS HARVEY: Nah.
DALEN SPRATT: I mean, Paranormal Poppy knew he was going to be Paranormal Poppy.
MARCUS HARVEY: He’d been thinking of that name for a long time.
DALEN SPRATT: For a long time, even before there was any inkling of paranormal. He actually tried it with us, like, “What you guys think about this?”
MARCUS HARVEY: “You think this is gonna stick?”
DALEN SPRATT: Like, “We have work, dog. Sure, why not?”
MARCUS HARVEY: But no, I don’t think we ever in a million years thought or knew how big this thing could get. And what’s crazy is it really feels like we just are beginning. We’re anxious to see where this thing can go. I would love to be 80 years old doing a Ghost Brothers reunion. One last time in Las Vegas. [laughs]
JIM HAROLD: Like those rock bands, everyone’s “last tour,” and then five years later they have the “really” last tour and the “really, really” last tour.
MARCUS HARVEY: “Okay, okay, for real this time.”
JIM HAROLD: “This time this is it. We’re done.” Speaking of rock stars, or the son of a rock star, Jack Osbourne. You’re doing the show with Jack Osbourne. We’ve had him on the show before. What’s that been like, and how’s the chemistry? Because like you said, you guys are tight-knit, you’re a group, you’ve known each other for years. You introduce somebody new into the mix, how’s that been going?
JUWAN MASS: It’s been great, honestly. I feel like we’ve known Jack forever. We grew up watching him, but I feel like we grew up with him, and I think our chemistry reflects that. I think there was a moment where it was like – well, I can just speak for myself. It’s like, how is the new dynamic going to work with us and him, because we already have our chemistry, we already have our relationship and how we connect with one another?
But I feel like Jack fell right into the mix seamlessly. He’s quick-witted. He has really good jokes. I don’t think he’s able to let those fly normally on some of his other programs. With us, I think he’s able to show that side of himself, and I think it resonates really well with the fans and viewers.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, that’s got to be – it’s like anything else. If you’re in a band or you’re doing a podcast or you’re doing a radio show or you’re doing a TV show, or if you’re just in a regular place of business, you add somebody in and it’s nice when it clicks.
MARCUS HARVEY: He’s like the Johnny Gill of our New Edition. We had to add one more person in.
JIM HAROLD: [laughs] That’s funny. So this new season of Fright Club – I know you can only say so much and you don’t want to spoil it. We’re recording this on July 6th; this’ll air next week, on Tuesday. So what kind of things are coming up in this season that people can look forward to? Some things you can give us a little hint of?
JUWAN MASS: A lot more laughs, I’m going to tell you that now. We come in with a lot more energy of funny. We’re talking to some legends this season. Celebrity guests that we have on, legendary. Some people that I would’ve never fathomed talking to, ever. And to be talking to them in the paranormal space is truly a blessing. But it’s going to be really dope for you guys to see who we talk to. It’s going to be interesting.
JIM HAROLD: Do you think – go ahead, I’m sorry.
MARCUS HARVEY: You’re going to see a lot more winning by me.
JUWAN MASS: A lot more cheating.
MARCUS HARVEY: I just don’t think you had the most nightmare – I don’t think you had the most frightening clips, bro.
JUWAN MASS: I don’t.
DALEN SPRATT: We just know that the way the system works, it always is trying to hold a brother down.
MARCUS HARVEY: So just be proud that I won since The Man kept trying to hold me down.
JUWAN MASS: That you made it out. You just didn’t stay down. Can’t keep a good brother down.
MARCUS HARVEY: Can’t keep a good brother down. We have a lot of guests, though, this year, man. We’ve got Tommy Davidson. We just had Howie Mandel. We have somebody who knows about a beehive. Hint, hint. Or they have a beehive.
DALEN SPRATT: [singing] “All the single ladies, all the single ladies…”
[Cross-talk among Ghost Brothers]
JUWAN MASS: We moving on up. And the clips just get better and better. Some of the videos that we see are out of this world.
JIM HAROLD: Do you think when you walk into a location, the ghosts almost light up for you in the sense that – they might not know you’re on TV, although they might, but they know “Hey, these people know their stuff”? They kind of recognize you, so to speak, so they’re more likely to even maybe ramp up the activity? Do you think that happens?
DALEN SPRATT: I think they respect us because we respect them. We move the way we move with move and respect and not being judging, no matter what the situation calls for. I think it allows whatever it is we’re communicating with to open up.
JUWAN MASS: I like that bad boy –
MARCUS HARVEY: Do I need a “paranormal” in my name somewhere?
JIM HAROLD: I was wondering.
MARCUS HARVEY: I do. I’m lazy, but I’m going to figure it out. [laughs]
JIM HAROLD: You’re doing such great things. Congratulations. Season 2 of Fright Club with Jack Osbourne on the Travel Channel, 10 p.m. Eastern Time on Fridays. New episodes launch the same day on Discovery+. Gentlemen, anything else you want to mention for folks listening? Marcus?
MARCUS HARVEY: Last week we did it on Thursday, so if you guys watched the show on Thursday, it might be there, but it’s definitely going to be there on Friday. I know it’s going to be there both days.
JIM HAROLD: Good. Thank you. Duly noted. Dalen, Juwan, and Marcus, the Ghost Brothers, thank you for joining us today. I appreciate it.
GHOST BROTHERS: Thanks, Jim.
JIM HAROLD: That was a fun interview, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Next up is Chris Williamson. He’s going to tell us all about he strange disappearance of Amelia Earhart right after this.
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If you love the Paranormal Podcast, be sure to check out Jim Harold’s Campfire, where ordinary people share their extraordinary stories of ghosts, UFOs, cryptids, and terrifying encounters. Find it for free wherever you listen to this podcast. Tune in to Jim Harold’s Campfire today. Now, we return to the Paranormal Podcast.
JIM HAROLD: Today we’re going to have a fascinating discussion. There are certain themes that have fascinated me since I was very, very young, and when I was a little kid I got fascinated by aviation. Charles Lindbergh, the Bermuda Triangle and all these different things. One thing that came up and always fascinated me and I’ve always wondered about it ever since is the strange disappearance of that great aviatress, I guess you would call her, a female aviator – Amelia Earhart.
I’ve got to believe, if not the foremost expert, one of the foremost experts on this just because he has done so much work on it. I’m talking about Chris Williamson. He of course has had the successful Chasing Earhart podcast, and he has a new book out, just released, Rabbit Hole: The Vanishing of Amelia Earhart & Fred Noonan. Chris, congratulations on this book. I know you worked hard to get it out. It’s been quite a journey, hasn’t it?
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Yeah, it sure has. Thank you so much, Jim, for having me. What a true honor this is. It really has. It’s been a remarkable journey, and as I said offline, I think a lesson really to myself. Certainly nobody else; I’m not in a position to teach lessons to anyone. But this has been a lesson to myself in perseverance and knocking on that door, as I said, pushing until that door opens and you can step through it. This has been a really remarkable, gut-wrenching but beautiful experience all in one, and there’s not many experiences you can have in life that are all of that. This has certainly been one of them, and we’re just getting started. The release has been out in the ether for about four days now.
JIM HAROLD: Well, congratulations on that. I guess maybe the first thing to do – there’s some people out there who have certainly – probably most of our audience, I’m guessing, is familiar with the name Amelia Earhart, and they know that she was a brave flier, and maybe they knew she disappeared. But that’s the beginning event. It’s a name people know, but they may not know as, frankly, maybe they should. So talk to us about who Amelia Earhart was and give us a little bit of Amelia Earhart 101 and why she’s very important to this day, 80, going on 90 years later.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Absolutely. She is an icon. She came up in the golden age of aviation, early in aviation, and she certainly walked away from more than her fair share of crashes. She broke multiple records. She really became the face of aviation very, very quickly – almost instantaneously. She is a pilot for a very short time when she gets offered this remarkable opportunity to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean in any way, shape, or form.
Lindbergh had done it years prior to that and was beyond an icon at this point, and the gentleman who was putting this together, one of the key figures was a gentleman by the name of George Palmer Putnam, who would eventually become Earhart’s husband years later. He was looking for a “Lady Lindy,” a version of Lindbergh that was female that he could help promote when it came to maybe another book. He had previously published Lindbergh’s book, his autobiography, so I think he was looking to repeat that success.
Enter Amelia Earhart, this social worker at the time. She was a social worker from Boston, and she had lived all over the country previously and done all these odd jobs and had been bitten by the aviation bug. It took a little while for it to catch fire for her. She sees multiple planes when she’s younger and doesn’t really think much of them until she goes up into an aircraft with Frank Hawks. Her father pays about $10, I think, back in that time to give her a ride in this airplane. Frank Hawks gives her a ride; she goes up and she instantly says, very famously, “As soon as I was off the ground I knew I had to fly.”
She breaks all of these records. She becomes the first female to cross the Atlantic, and not by herself; she’s part of this very famous flight called the Friendship. There were two other men aboard the flight who did most of the piloting and most of the work, but she was the captain of the flight and did a lot of the behind-the-scenes work and was very instrumental in the success of that flight.
She makes it across the Atlantic. She becomes an instant celebrity, but she has this self-doubt that looms over her life at that point. She really wanted to do it on her own. She wanted to do it by herself. She wanted to be the pilot. So she says, “Well, maybe next time I do it, I’ll do it by myself.” And that’s exactly what she does. She sets that record, and if she was famous before, she becomes a superstar, the likes that no one had seen other than Lindbergh at the time.
She continues to use that platform and to break further records, and she sets all of this aviation feats and records all along the way, and she becomes the face of women in aviation. She helps promote all of that. She winds down what she believes to be the end of her flying career with this equatorial flight around the world. She wants to go farther, faster, higher than anyone ever has, and she almost makes it.
She gets about 95% of the way around the world, on the trip, and then, on July 2nd of 1937, she and her celestial navigator, Fred Noonan, who is an icon in his own right, disappear mysteriously over the Pacific Ocean. It gets a little foggy there. We have some information that really leans into the idea that she might’ve just run out of gas and crashed in the ocean just short of her destination, which was a little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
And ever since then, people have been looking, and theories abound almost instantly after she disappears. Everything from the idea that she maybe went to a different island, happened upon a different island and died as a castaway to turning around to being part of a spy mission and being captured by the Japanese to eventually maybe getting repatriated in the U.S. and being in Japanese custody for many years.
But it gets crazier and crazier and crazier, and now just a couple of days ago, we just passed the 8th anniversary of Earhart and Noonan’s vanishing over the Pacific Ocean, that area, and everybody’s been looking ever since. It’s been a huge case. A huge case.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, 1937 and it’s 2022. I mean, the staying power of it is incredible.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Remarkable.
JIM HAROLD: Let me comment on this, because we talked about this offline. People might say, “The Paranormal Podcast – why would you have something about Amelia Earhart on the Paranormal Podcast?” I’ve always felt that this show has – not comparing this show to these shows I’m going o mention because they were far larger and more important, but when I think of In Search Of… and Unsolved Mysteries, they had a lot of paranormal stuff, but they always had these mystery kind of things.
Really, this is one of the great mysteries of history and has taken on almost a paranormal feel just because it’s so strange and mysterious. You think of things like the disappearance of Glenn Miller, or you think about D. B. Cooper, who I know you’ve done work on. It falls into that weird category of like, “Oh my goodness, what is this mystery?” It’s not just somebody going missing. There seems to be so much more to it.
So you’ve talked about some of the competing theories and you listed some of them off. What are the top two or three theories? You’re talking about the theory that she just ran out of gas and crashed, the idea that she was part of some super secret spy mission and she was captured by the Japanese. One of the most tantalizing is the idea that she may have lived on. Not too long ago I listened to one of the podcasts you had done on that idea, and that was fascinating. What are some of the other big theories around the disappearance of Amelia Earhart?
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: I think you hit a lot of really important ones. You start with that basic foundational story, which is what the United States government will likely tell you. If you get someone online and say, “Hey, what happened to Earhart?”, they’re going to say she crashed and sank and ran out of fuel. So that’s our baseline. That’s where we start everything. You’re in and around Howland Island, maybe between 100 and 200 miles out of Howland Island. If you Google Earth it, it’s this tiny speck of island. Have your listeners do that; it’s really remarkable.
Then you start looking at alternative ideas and alternative theories, and it’s really important to note one thing in particular. On the official record of the Itasca call logs, Amelia Earhart starts saying things that are very interesting, like, “We must be on you but cannot see you,” “Gas is running low,” “We’re about 200 miles out,” “We’re about 100 miles out.” So you’ve got to look at what Earhart was “saying” – depending on what you believe and what theory you subscribe to.
Then you start looking at all the different destinations. How far away were those? The first one is something called “castaway,” and that is the idea that Earhart and Noonan couldn’t find Howland Island – they might’ve been off in their navigation, and they happened upon an island that was called Gardner Island at the time. It’s now called Nikumaroro Island. It’s been changed for a long time now.
There’s a group that champions this particular theory called TIGHAR, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recover (TIGHAR). The idea is that Earhart and Noonan are able to successfully put the plane down on this coral atoll there. It’s a pretty good spot to put down. They send these post-loss radio signals for about five days. You start looking at the evidence supported by that and that becomes very compelling and very interesting. And that’s just one piece of that monster of a theory. They’ve compiled a lot of what would be called circumstantial evidence if we were sitting in a modern-day courtroom setting. So that’s castaway.
Then you’ve got the Marshall Islands Japanese capture. It’s a huge, huge theory, and there’s a lot of little umbrellas underneath the larger umbrella that you can go to. That idea basically states that Earhart and Noonan, depending on what you believe, were either actively involved in a spy investigation or were coaxed into having no choice but to join a spy mission. The idea here was that they were captured by the Japanese while trying to do some reconnaissance work and take some photographs of some of the mandated islands out in that area prior to World War II. Remember, this is 1937; Pearl Harbor happened in ’41, so not that far away.
So they’re out there, they get captured. Depending on who you talk to and what you believe, they’re either in custody and Earhart dies of dysentery in a jail cell in this prison called Garapan Prison – that’s still standing, by the way – or the idea that maybe they were executed and they’re actually buried to this day in unmarked graves somewhere in the Marshall Islands, somewhere in that area. Again, depending on who you believe and what theory you decide to go down. So that’s Japanese capture.
There is another one called the Buka theory which basically indicates that she turned around – it has a lot to do with flight radius. Earhart and Noonan were at the halfway point between Lae, New Guinea, where they took off for the last time, and Howland Island. That’s been championed by a gentleman by the name of Bill Snavely and his group, Project Blue Angel.
They actually happen to have an aircraft – it’s a very long story, but there’s an aircraft down in Buka in about 150 feet of water in probably one of the most insane underwater environments on the face of the earth. This plane is wrapped in coral; it’s essentially a ghost of an airframe. That’s Buka, so that’s basically “turn around and go back” theory. That’s what a lot of people call it.
The last one is really this idea that she was repatriated. It ties into Japanese capture in sort of a “choose your own adventure” kind of way. Remember those books back when we were kids, “Turn to page 257 if she turns this” – so the idea here is (A) she lives or (B) she dies. It’s really as cut and dry as that, but there’s a lot of information, a lot of history, and a lot of really compelling information on what’s known as the Irene Bolam or repatriation theory. That is a remarkable theory in and of itself.
So you’ve got all these different types of things you can look into and all these different types of theories with different supporting evidence that you can investigate depending on what you believe is the most compelling evidence of all. It’s a really interesting case because you’ve got so many different types of evidence to back all these different theories. It’s not like forensic photo overlay for every single theory you’ve got. You’ve got a lot of scientific information, you’ve got the official crash logs or call logs from Itasca. You’ve got all these different things. Archeology. You name it, it’s been tested and touched in this Earhart case.
That’s a snapshot of some of the main theories that we covered in the original show and some of the theories that are covered, of course, in this book.
JIM HAROLD: Physical evidence. You mentioned this one group that says they have this plane in 150 feet of water. I believe a few years ago there was a shoe or something found that was believed to be Earhart’s?
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Yeah, different theories. The shoe was found on Nikumaroro. They found a lot of stuff that’s washed up on Nikumaroro or that has been there at something called the Seven Site, which is a site where they believe Amelia Earhart, or someone, camped way back when. They’ve brought in forensic dogs recently in conjunction with National Geographic. They had a big thing on Disney+ and NatGeo, and one of those was the latest exploration out to that island. The shoe was one of the things they found there. The heel of a woman’s shoe, the heel of a man’s shoe, I believe. They found a sextant, which is a navigational instrument that Noonan would’ve used. They determined later that that wasn’t in fact Noonan’s; it was actually somebody else’s.
This island, the castaway that TIGHAR is working on, focusing on, is a high-traffic island, believe it or not, in the middle of the Pacific. It’s an island that a lot of people have visited. There’s been a crash off that island, the SS Norwich City, which is a very famous wreckage. I think there were about 11 men that ran aground the shores of Nikumaroro there. And it was colonized at one time. People were there.
So they’re having the difficult task of sorting through all of that and trying to determine if what they found is relatable to Amelia Earhart or maybe somebody else. Of course, they believe it’s Amelia Earhart. But Buka is the elephant in the room. It’s this plane that Bill Snavely and his team have found out in Buka under this very short – 150 feet of water is nothing compared to 18,000 feet in the deep oceans.
But it’s very difficult. They have to get very special permissions every time they go in there. They have rudimentary equipment, shoestring budget funded by Snavely himself on multiple occasions. The hope is that they can get in there with proper equipment, a larger team, and try to get the necessary funding for that expedition so they can get out there and determine if this plane is actually the Electra or maybe just an Electra or something very similar. What I love about Bill is he doesn’t rule out that he could be wrong, and that’s a really interesting aspect of it.
JIM HAROLD: It would seem, with the price of cameras and so forth going down, that somebody could go 150 feet. Now, again, it’s probably very murky – I’m sure it’s murky, but somehow capture some imagery that would at least pin down the exact model of that plane based on a wing design or some kind of physical specificity. Is that too much to expect or ask?
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Years ago I would’ve said no, not at all. But now – I’ve seen the video footage. I’ve seen the footage from Buka. I’m one of the only privileged people to have been able to see it. It’s absolutely stunning underwater footage when they’re down there. But you kind of don’t know what you’re looking at in some instances.
Now, the people that have been actually down there and explored it and put their hands on this wreckage are saying he’s absolutely right, it is an aircraft, it is there. We do have one single eyewitness, who was a little boy at the time of the crash in 1937, who’s no longer alive, who witnessed the whole time. It’s very difficult to get down there with the equipment that they’ve got and the funding and the budget they’ve got. They’re down there with these little air-powered jackhammers trying to bust through four feet of coral that’s wrapped around this aircraft with very limited oxygen and very limited amount of time.
So it’s tough. You would think, yeah, if you go after something specific, you might be able to grab a part or something that you could pull up, maybe a spark plug that’s made out of copper or something of that nature that maybe wouldn’t have so much coral on it. But it’s very difficult. Bill is very anxious to get down there again and to try to put some finalization on this. There’s hopefully going to be some announcements from the Project Blue Angel side in the coming months, and hopefully they’ll get down there and be able to rule this thing out or in, depending on what they discover.
JIM HAROLD: This would be a perfect case – I know some people love him, some people hate him, but somebody like an Elon Musk to come in and say, “I’m going to throw the money at it. We’re going to solve this mystery once and for all.” I think that would be kind of neat. Even if you don’t like him, it would be kind of neat. Or any other billionaires out there that want to apply.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Yeah, we’re accepting applications now. Jeff Bezos –
JIM HAROLD: Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, whoever.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Absolutely. To your point, Bezos famously not that long ago, when they went up into space, they actually brought a very dear friend of mine, Wally Funk, who went up in that aircraft and went to the edge of –
JIM HAROLD: Oh yes, yes.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: She’s a friend. It’s been a while since I’ve talked to her, but yeah, we’ve talked to her several times and we’re very close with her. But he actually brought Earhart’s goggles on that flight, so he’s a fan. He’s certainly aware. He’s more than aware. I think you’re absolutely right; it’s going to take somebody with really stupid deep pockets that can just say, “Here’s $100 million.” It’s like reaching into our pocket and pulling out $20 bucks and saying, “Here you go.”
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, “Figure it out.”
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: That’s what it’s going to take. It’s going to take some serious money. Especially when you get into the deep ocean searches that are $3-4 million bucks a day, that gets real expensive. So it’s going to take someone that’s going to be able to throw $100 million, $150 million at somebody that really believes in that somebody’s theory. That’s what it’s going to take, I think. You’re right.
JIM HAROLD: Let me ask you this. Somebody’s out there listening – and I know somebody’s saying this – “There’s a lot better things they could do with their money. Why does it matter? Why do we need to know now? It’s been almost 90 years. It’s history. She was a great figure, of course, but what does it matter now?” Why does it matter? Why does it matter to you? Because I can tell from the passion in your voice it does matter for you.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Yeah. I would say if it was your family member, wouldn’t you want to know? It’s pretty straightforward. Even if it’s 85 years later, there are family members that are alive. Amelia Earhart’s niece, there’s cousins, there’s people that really want to know what happened to her. And I feel like a woman of that stature, that established this iconography in the last 80 years since she disappeared, deserves to have a period on the end of that sentence. Not only her, but Fred Noonan, who was an absolute giant in celestial navigation. As far as PanAm is concerned and companies like that, he’s an absolute giant and a legend.
Those people are very brave and attempted something that people would think was crazy at that time. If you look at something like Japanese capture – we’ll just assume that’s that happened to them – we talk about this in the book and at length in the original show. If Earhart and Noonan were in fact captured by the Japanese and were in custody five years prior to World War II beginning officially for the United States and they were executed in Japanese custody prior to World War II, they would be the first official casualties of World War II, and shouldn’t they be recognized by their country if something like that had happened?
Now, I don’t know that that’s what happened, but I feel like we’re at that step where you’ve got some of the brightest people on the face of the earth that are pushing all these different theories that believe and know, like they know that this is what happened to Earhart and Noonan. I believe that’s Step 1. This case is going to be cracked by either, as we said, someone with deep pockets, or it’s going to be found by a forgotten throwaway line in the National Archives or something like that.
And that’s going to lead to the biggest discovery of all time. It’s the Holy Grail. If this plane were to be found tomorrow – I don’t care where it’s found – if it was found tomorrow, it would be the biggest U.S. discovery ever. Earhart is that big of a deal. I’ve said this before many times: there’s a reason why there’s an Amelia Earhart Day at NASA. There’s a reason why she’s such an icon in STEM. Amelia Earhart was in classes at Purdue University and on lecture tours in the ’30s. Women had just gotten the right to vote. She’s in classes telling women, “You can be better than I can. Don’t just stop at where I’m at. Go farther, further, faster, higher. Do whatever you can do”
A woman like that, an icon like that, someone that’s in my opinion bulletproof, untouchable – that is why we should care. These people deserve to be found. We deserve to have an ending. America doesn’t leave anybody behind, right? They say that a lot. Well, these are Americans, and these are people that could be anywhere on the face of the planet, depending on who you’re pushing. They should be brought home. They should have a final funeral. That aircraft should be in a museum or on display. If it’s found in the ocean, let’s say, and it’s in relatively good shape, it should run around like parts of the Titanic did.
It’s that iconic of an aircraft and iconic of a case. I believe we have to close the door one way or the other. And I’m optimistic that we will, in one way or another.
JIM HAROLD: That’s pretty cool. That would be awesome to see. There’s a lot of mysteries we explore on this show – what are UFOs or what are ghosts. Some of these things you feel like you can never have an answer for, but this is one that you feel maybe you could have an answer for it.
Now, I’ve got to ask you about my favorite theory, the one that I find the most fascinating. I’m not saying it’s the one that’s most likely, but I think it’s the most fascinating: the idea that Amelia Earhart came back to the U.S. and was living a regular life. Talk to us a little bit about that one because I was listening to your one podcast about that – I remember I was down in my basement, playing darts, and I was listening like “This is fascinating!” Tell us about that theory, because that one I love.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Sure. This is a theory that was championed by a gentleman by the name of Joe Gervais, who is no longer with us. The mantle was taken up by other people, a gentleman by the name of Todd Swindell, who has been working on this for a long time. It really started in the late ’60s, probably earlier than 1970.
There’s a book that comes out in 1970, published by McGraw-Hill, which obviously they’re pretty big now, still, so they’ve got history here. It’s written by a gentleman by the name of Joe Klaas, and it’s based on Joe Gervais’s research. So you’ve got two Joes: Joe Klaas, Joe Gervais. The book claims, among other things, that Amelia Earhart was repatriated and that she came back years later, after 1937, after being in Japanese custody, and she was essentially the first inductee into what would be known later as the Witness Protection Program. This was before it ever had a name, anything like that. A concept, even, really.
She ends up living on the East Coast, in New Jersey, and she’s got specific people in place that are helping her along the way to reacclimate herself back into the world after being – she was declared dead in absentia on January 5th of ’39, so this happens years after that, even. You can imagine if you’re declared dead, it’s a little tough to get back into society.
But the concept and the tradeoff – and again, it’s murky, it’s foggy, but the tradeoff there is that if she comes back to the U.S., she can never speak with or interact with anybody previously in her life prior to ’37. So her husband, her mother, her sister, people she really would’ve cared very much for.
This book makes that claim, among others, and the woman’s name, or the identity she took, is a woman by the name of Irene Bolam, who is a fascinating person in her own right. And this all plays out in public, actually. The book comes out in 1970 and Irene makes a stink. She’s not Earhart. You can probably YouTube this. It’s on Unsolved Mysteries, it’s on In Search Of… She famously holds the book upside down, sort of reverse crucifixion style, and she stomps on the book, “I’m not this mystery woman, I’m not Earhart.”
But in private, it was always like – for people who knew her, or knew both Earhart and Bolam, they all said that Bolam always played coy about it privately. “Yeah, I’m not Earhart,” wink, wink nod, nod kind of thing. But just didn’t want the public part of it. What’s really interesting about that – and we discuss this in the book and in the show – is that she goes to court, she sues McGraw-Hill and Joe Gervais and Joe Klaas and all that, and she wins. She wins on basically slander, defamation, whatever, that they’re claiming she’s someone she’s not.
Once she wins, in order to secure the victory and secure whatever she was suing for in addition to the takedown of the book, the judge wants a set of fingerprints. He says, “We need a set of fingerprints for this, just for record and everything.” And immediately she drops the case. She just backs off after that, and she won’t give the prints.
Now, you could say that maybe she just values her privacy as a U.S. citizen. Certainly that could be accurate. You could also say – she was married to a gentleman by the name of Guy Bolam at the time, who was a retired MI6 agent, so she had ties to different variations of the government.
JIM HAROLD: Intelligence.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Intelligence. Maybe it was because of that. You can’t assume it’s because she was Earhart, but it’s really interesting that she drops it carte blanche, just drops the whole thing and decides – they basically settle out of court almost ceremoniously, like for $10 or $15 bucks or something like that. It’s undisclosed.
But she gets the book pulled. You can still get the book, but it’s not something that’s published anymore. It’s just a really wild idea and a really wild, fun, interesting theory that may or may not hold water depending on who you talk to. So we decided to put that theory on trial in the original show. It’s not in the book for reasons I really can’t get into publicly, but it’s not in the book. But it’s in the original show, and we did put it on trial and we had experts come in from both sides and tell you why she was Bolam and why Bolam was Earhart, and then why it doesn’t make any sense at all. We treated it in the same manner we treated every theory in the show and in the book.
That’s Irene Bolam repatriation in a nutshell. A very tight nutshell.
JIM HAROLD: Just out of curiosity, how long did Irene live?
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: She died in 1982, and interestingly enough, one of her final wishes is that her body would be cremated so that she could never be fingerprinted. Take that how you will.
JIM HAROLD: Food for thought.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Absolutely.
JIM HAROLD: So this book, Rabbit Hole: The Vanishing of Amelia Earhart & Fred Noonan. You’ve talked to us about the case. What can people expect in the book?
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: The book really was birthed out of this idea of people asking for a written transcript of Season 1 of the show. We were recording the show. Vanished as it stands, we’re now going to be prepping for pre-research on Season 3. I never intended this show to go beyond Earhart. This was really my coup de grace even back then. I had finished Chasing Earhart, about 100 episodes. We’d gone as hard as we could on that, and I wanted to do this grittier thing. My vision was playing off of Serial and things like that, and Up and Vanished and other shows that were really popular. I loved the way they covered it, but I also had this really crazy idea of a trial by jury.
The book itself was birthed out of the idea of people just asking. Two or three episodes in, people were saying, “Hey, are you going to have a written version of this?” We have an audience that skews a little bit older. People don’t always necessarily like to consume via podcast. Sometimes they like to hold something and read it tangibly. So it just started becoming more and more of a possibility as the show went on.
About just under a year after the show ended, I started transcribing. I started editing the book and I discovered very quickly that the book itself was going to be an absolute monster because if you put some of our episodes into a transcription software and it spits out a raw copy, all of a sudden you’ve got 250 pages for a single episode because some of our episodes go four, four and a half hours long.
JIM HAROLD: Wow.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: So I had to make a determination. Am I just going got go hard, go all-in on this? Am I going to put it in exactly as it was originally listened to and heard? Or am I going to take some creative liberties? The answer really lay somewhere in between.
What I did is I took the original show. About 90% of it – probably well over 90% of it is in the book. I did cut some fat depending on if it was repeated stuff or whatever the case was, but we put this book out and we decided, what if we not only put it out, but we have people who were involved in the original show, and even some that weren’t, that couldn’t make the original show, write “three years later” retrospective pieces that we pepper throughout the book? So people can gather updates. And then you’ve got my and Jen’s color commentary all throughout the way and me experiencing the case as I originally experienced it in that season of the show.
Then what you have is a book that’s 800+ pages, and it’s this coup de grace for me for sure this time. I feel like there’s nothing else I can really add to the case at this point. And here we are. We have four major theories in it. But we don’t just have theories; we try to cover her life from the cradle to the disappearance, and then the 85 years since then. We basically tackle these theories and tackle them in a trial by jury, and then we wrap up the book that way.
It’s a really interesting read. It’s really conceptually very different from a lot of the other Earhart books that are out there when you take this and you read it. There are Easter eggs hidden all over the book. There are little secrets and things that only I know about and we’re waiting for people to discover in the book. I think that’s part of the fun. It’s hopefully a really enjoyable book that will give people an idea of why this case seems to endure, as you said so perfectly earlier. It endures. Why people care – hopefully when they read this book, they’ll get it. They’ll get why people should care about Earhart and Noonan.
JIM HAROLD: It’s a fascinating case, and I don’t think there’s very many people who have done any more work on it than Chris Williamson, with his podcast and now the book Rabbit Hole: The Vanishing of Amelia Earhart & Fred Noonan. Chris, where can people find the book?
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: The easiest way to get it is through our web portal. It’s www.intotherabbithole.net. You can order a copy there. You can get it signed or unsigned, whatever you prefer. You can also get it on Amazon. It’s on Barnes and Noble, it’s on Walmart.com. All the usual places that you’ll find online versions.
We are working on a Kindle version, an eBook version. My thing was I had this deadline that we had to scramble for, for July 2nd, to get it out on the 85th. So I focused all my attention into the softcover version, which is really my proudest moment. It’s a beautiful book, I think. And now we’re going to put together a Kindle version with a lot of clickable links and things like that that that we’re going to be working on. So that will be coming shortly. But intotherabbithole.net is where you can get it, or your favorite retailer. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll have it in some independent brick-and-mortar bookstores in the near future. We’ll see.
JIM HAROLD: Awesome. One last thing: people also should check out the podcasts. Where can they find those?
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: Everywhere you stream your podcasts. I know it’s a very popular term, “Vanished.” We are not Up and Vanished. We are not The Vanished. Those shows are marquis shows. We are an independent show. We love what we do. We think what we’ve got is very special. Any podcast platform, you can find it. It’s just “Vanished,” and you’ll see the black logo with the writing and all the famous people in the words. You’ll see what I mean when you see it. You can also get it at vanishedshow.com. That’s our direct URL. And of course, we’re on AudioBoom as well, as our provider, our source.
JIM HAROLD: Well, Chris, it’s been fascinating talking about the strange disappearance of Amelia Earhart. All the best with your books and any future projects. It’s been a fun chat. Thank you so much.
CHRIS WILLIAMSON: A true honor, sir. Thank you so much, Jim.
JIM HAROLD: Thanks to the Ghost Brothers and to Chris for joining us. It was a fun show, an interesting show, and I hope you enjoyed it as well.
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Thank you so much. We’ll talk to you next time on the Paranormal Podcast. Have a great week, everybody. Bye-bye.