The Worker's Cauldron

40 Episodes

By: David Roddy& Mercedas Castillo

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

Witchcraft and Women's Liberation Part 1: The Story of the Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell

In this episode, we tackle the contentious Radical Feminist movement, particularly the actions of the Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, aka W.I.T.C.H. We discuss the shifting political ideas of W.I.T.C.H co-founder Robin Morgan and consider how the contradictions within radical feminism--a movement of women who criticized the root of patriarchal society-- gave way to cultural feminism, which held the seeds of a burgeoning feminist spirituality movement.

Jo Freeman, WITCH

Redstockings, Miss America Protest

WITCH Manifesto,<...

A Brief Conversation with Brenda Salguero from Monstras

We are publishing a more relaxed episode this month as we prepare for the next series. Brenda Salguera of the Monstras: Latinx Monsters and Folklore podcast joins us to discuss the strange case of flying humanoids(but maybe illegal gold miners with jetpacks) In Loreto, Peru that made headlines last month.

Sources from Radio Programas del Perú:
"They are aliens!": Loreto residents denounce the presence of strange beings that attack them at night

Loreto: Police and Navy arrived at community where residents reported presence of aliens

Prosecutor's Office believes it is likely t...

Teresa Urrea: Rebel and Saint

This month, Dr. Jennifer Koshatka Seman joins us to talk about her book Borderlands Curanderos: The Worlds of Santa Teresa Urrea and Don Pedrito Jaramillo. We focus on the life of Teresa Urrea, a folk saint and spiritual healer in late 19th century Mexico that inspired indigenous and poor workers from the borderlands of Mexico to rise up against the Presidency of Porfirio Diaz.

Jennifer Koshatka Seman, Borderlands Curanderos: The Worlds of Santa Teresa Urrea and Don Pedrito Jaramillo

Charles Wollenberg,

Peru's Problem with Pishtacos

There is a peculiar phantom rumored to haunt the rural roads of the South American Andes. The pishtaco takes the form of a tall, well-dressed white man who steals the fat from the bodies of the region's indigenous inhabitants. We explore how this monster was born out of the horrors of colonization and how it recreates itself throughout the history of Peru as the personification of oppression.


Mary Weismantel, Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the Andes

Ernesto Vasquex Del Aguila, <...

Vodou Nationalism Part 2: The Truth About Papa Doc

Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier's administration was portrayed as a "Voodoo Dictatorship" by the Western press due to his tense relationship with the Catholic Church and his conflicting approach to the nation's Vodou beliefs. However, the claims of his political use of the religion's spirits and beliefs are based on shaky foundations. On this episode of The Worker's Cauldron, we try to shift through competing claims in an attempt to uncover the true history Haiti's right-wing dictator.

David Nicholls,  From Dessalines to Duvalier: Race, Colour and National Independence in Haiti
John Cussans, Undead Uprising: Haiti, H...

Vodou Nationalism, Part 1: Between Occupation and Duvalier

Focusing on the years between American military occupation and the dictatorship of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier in Haiti, the Workers Cauldron Podcast examines the ways in which Haitian literary groups represented the African diaspora religion of Vodou. After being moved by indiginisme, an ethnological movement to ground Haitian identity in its African past,  future dictator Francois Duvalier helped to organize a group of black nationalist or noiriste writers called Les Griots who rebelled against the enlightenment principles of republican democracy.

David Nicholls: Politics and Religion in Haiti  From Dessalines to Duvalier: Race, Colour and Na...

An American Werewolf for Christmas

In the final episode of our 2022 season, we discuss the rise of a bizarre cryptid popularly called The Dogman. We explore the works of the late great Linda Godfrey, who passed away on November 27 of this year, and her role in popularizing Wisconsin’s Beast of Bray Road and the Michigan Dogman. Over the last decade, the monster has grown from humble rural origins into a cryptid of international fame.

Linda Godfrey:
The Beast of Bray Road: Tailing Wisconsin's Werewolf
Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America...

Gay Liberation and Witchcraft Part 2: From Minoans to Faeries

We continue our journey into the intersections of gay liberation and the neopagan movements with a discussion of Eddie Buczynski  a young witch, brought under the wing of famed gay witch Leo Martello, who founded the Minoan Brotherhood--combining what he believed to be ancient goddess worship with a new mystery cult for gay men. We then discuss the pagan turn of Arthur Evans, formerly the strategist for the Gay Activist Alliance, with the 1978 publication of Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture. Finally, we dive into the Radical Faeries, organized by gay rights pioneer Harry Hay, who sought to create a...

Gay Liberation and Witchcraft Part 1: The Mysterious Life of Leo Martello

We are back and in  time for Halloween we are discussing, among other things, the first pagan pride “Witch-In” in New York’s Central Park on October 31, 1970. The organizer of the event, an eccentric Sicilian-American named Leo Martello, used his experience in the gay liberation movement to craft a (somewhat problematic) political identity for the emerging Wiccan religion. We discuss his life, influences, and how he related to the gay liberation movement after the Stonewall uprising.

Bonus: Cian Gill of the Wide Atlantic Weird Podcast joins us to discuss...

Monsters of the Caribbean

This episode we speak to UCLA social historian Robin Derby, whose upcoming book, Werewolves and other Bêtes Noires: Sorcery as History in the Haitian-Dominican Borderlands, focuses on manifestations of demonic animals on the island of Hispaniola.  We talk about the links between colonization, capitalism and monsters--particularly the mysterious figure known as the bacá.

Further Reading:

Robin Derby and Marion Werner: The Devil Wears Dockers: Devil Pacts, Trade Zones, and Rural-Urban Ties in the Dominican Republic

Peggy McInerny: Shape-shifting and storytelling in Hispaniola 

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The Night Doctors

Sometimes monsters take on the most unlikely form. Today we talk about the night doctor, a shadowy medical menace that appears in Black folklore at the beginning of the 20th century. Fear of the night doctor reflected a very real history of racist medical abuse in the United States.

 CONTENT WARNING: this episode contains discussions about dissections and unethical medical experiments that some may find disturbing.


Night Riders in Black Folk History
By Gladys-Marie Fry

Goatsuckers at the End of History Neoliberalism, Borders and El Chupacabra

The Chupacabra is undoubtedly one of the most well known cryptids. It is a recent monster, emerging in Puerto Rico only in 1995. We discuss what was going on in Puerto Rico in the 1990s, the spread of the Chupacabra to Mexico after the North American Free Trade Agreement where it merged with President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and how it became associated with both coyotes suffering from mange and immigrants in the 2000s.

We are joined by Brenda Salguero and Dr. Orquidea of the podcast
Monstras: Latinx Monsters and Folklore, ...

When Mary Moved: Ireland 1985

This week we take a look at the strange moving statues phenomenon that attracted hundreds of thousands of Irish Catholics to shrines across the country in the summer of 1985. The moving statues were part the bleak social landscape of Ireland in the 1980s, and a series of scandals leading up to that summer ignited something of a social movement that politicized the alleged miracles.

We are joined by Victoria Anne Pearson of University College Cork and Cian Gill of the Wide
Atlantic Weird Podcast who help contextualize the strange occurrences. 

J. Ryan a...

Communist Cryptozoology 3: Big Footprints in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Finally, we travel to Vietnam, where both National Liberation Front fighters and American GI’s allegedly encountered Bigfoot-like creatures in the midst of the Vietnam War. We discuss how Vietnamese scientists respond to the Nguoi Rung or forest people in light of the nation's astonishing biodiversity..

Bonus material: The applications of Friedrich Engels to Bigfoot research

Kon Tum: The truth about the horror and bloodthirsty "forest man with no tail"

Nguoi Rung: mythical or missing ape

Kregg P. Jorgenson,

Communist Cryptozoology 2: Yeren in the People's Republic of China

This week we follow the tracks of the mysterious Yeren, aka "China's Bigfoot," and discuss how revolutionary Chinese scientists have grappled with the development of a “people’s science” as it relates to the country's enigmatic cryptid.

Bonus material: The taste of Bigfoot meat

Sigrid Schmalzer:
The People’s Peking Man: Popular Science and Human Identity in Twentieth-Century China

Lauren Chen:
Dreamers, crackpots or realists? The diehards on the trail of China’s ‘Bigfoot’
The legend of the Wild Man is alive and well and transformi...

Communist Cryptozoology Part 1: The USSR

How a select group of explorers and scientists from the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of Mongolia came to believe that a species of primitive, human-like creatures called Almas or Almasty haunted the mountains of Central Asia.  Also, we interview Dr. Ed Guimont on the role socialist science fiction may have had on a leader of the Soviet expedition to find the Yeti. Check out his podcast, The Impossible Archive, here.

Boris Porshnev, The Soviet Sasquatch
Artemy Magun,
Boris Porshnev's Dialectic of History

A Haunted House Christmas

In our season 3 finally, we pay homage to the great tradition of Christmas Ghost stories by looking into the haunted house. Jumping off from classic gothic literature and the wave of supernatural horror movies at the dawn of neoliberalism, we dive into the popularity of haunted house stories in modern reality television. We discuss the frightening undercurrents of domestic violence, the re-entrenchment of “traditional” gender roles, and the horrors of unstable housing markets.

Bonus: Some LEGO facts, possessed bowels, Cedric Jameson

Sources for our most reference heavy episode yet (sorry):

Avery Gordon:

The Terrified Teens of TikTok

In this edition of the Workers Cauldron, we are headed over to the strange world of TikTok, where a new folklore is developing around creatures appropriated from indigenous American spiritualities.  These spirits, oddly euphemized as “Flesh Pedestrians” and “Windy Bois," are said to steal unwary hikers off trails and into the deep forests of North America. We break these stories down, and discuss how this form of appropriation sidesteps the very real history of colonialism, to the horrors of Canadian residential schools to Kit Carson’s brutal attempt at ethnic cleansing in the American Southwest.

Bonus Material...

Paranormal PSYOPS

In this episode of The Worker’s Cauldron, we look at how the military of the United States has exploited supernatural beliefs in the process of growing its empire. From the infamous use of the Filipino Aswang to suppress the hukbalahap rebellion to the equally infamous Ghost Tape Number 10 played into the rebel held areas of Vietnam, we explore the strange intersections of imperialism and folklore.

Bonus Content: Various things to say about pigs

Herbert Friedman, Superstition PSYOP

Max Boot: Operation Mongoose: The Story of America's Ef...

Abducted! Part 2: Aliens at the End of History

Having discussed the first landmark cases of alien abduction in the last episode, this week we investigate the explosion of abduction claims in the 1980s and 1990s. We discuss the works of artist turned hypnotist Budd Hopkins, the strange encounters of author Whitley Streiber, the alien hybrid theories of historian David Jacobs, and the spiritual alien ideas of the late great John Mack. While alien abduction stories have existed since the 1960s, why did they become a pop-culture sensation during this era, with thousands of otherwise normal Americans claiming remarkable encounters with beings from other worlds?


Abducted! Part 1: The Beginings

Welcome to our first episode of our exploration of the very weird world of alien abductions. We talk about the strange mixture of Cold War anxiety, racial tension, emerging biotechnology that shaped the very first accounts of alien abductions--both in the movies and, allegedly, in real life. We cover the strange paranoia of Richard Shaver, the taking of Betty and Barney Hill, the very bizarre story of Travis Walton, and the very psychedelic abduction of Betty Andreasson.

Bonus Material: Getting to know your Orthons from your Quazgaas

Also check out our...

African Magic Against Slavery

This week we are headed to Jamaica to discuss the role of Obeah, a sort of Afro-Caribbean magic practiced there, in the islands history.  We'll talk about how English writers used it to justify slavery, how it inspired slaves to rise up in arms, and how an infamous Obeah woman known as Queen Nanny inspired free Black settlements to resist the British Empire.

Diana Paton, The Cultural Politics of Obeah. In The Cultural Politics of Obeah: Religion, Colonialism and Modernity in the Caribbean World

Eugenia O'Neal, Obeah, Race and Racism. Caribbean Witchcraft in th...

Colonialism, Creationism and Cryptozoology

In this episode of the workers cauldron we talk about how rumors of living (non-avian) Dinosaurs in Central Africa and alleged glowing pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea are intricately linked to the history of racism and colonialism.

Bonus Content: Problematic LEGO sets, Human Zoos and Raquel Welch


Wide Atlantic Weird: Monsters of the Frontier

Edward Guimont: Hunting Dinosaurs in Central Africa

Daniel Loxton and...

A Paranormal Pandemic

As the world went into lockdown, people began to more ghosts and mysterious lights in the sky. And this wasn't the first pandemic to be followed by the paranormal.

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Vampires, Vigilantes, and Violence

Are violent villagers really hunting vampires in the African country of Malawi? This week we discuss the history of this small nation,  how Western news outlets mischaracterized the movement against alleged vampires,  and look for the real bloodsuckers--social precarity, the forces of international finance capital, and neocolonialism.

Our sources are:
 Protesting unemployment and precarity? Mapping Community Perspectives on the Anti-bloodsucker Protests in Mulanje District, Malawi
By Daniel Kabunduli Nkhata

Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism
By David McNally

Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa

Jinn, War and Migration

This week, we sweep away the stereotypes surrounding "genies," aka jinn, to see what they can teach us about the psychological and spiritual ramifications of the mass forced migrations in the age of the global “War on Terror.”

Bonus Content: Racist Danes and Sleep Paralysis

Islam, Migration and Jinn: Spiritual Medicine in Muslim Health Management
Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar
The Jinn of Oman
Meet the Dutch Exorcist-Doctors treating the ment...

Mutilation Nation

Mutilation Nation

This week, we discuss the cattle mutilation wave that hit the heartlands of the United States during the 1970s. This is how the near-collapse of the cattle industry and the end of the Vietnam War precipitated rumors of secret cults, extraterrestrials, cryptids, and a secret government conspiracy all hell-bent on slicing up cows. And also how this all relates to radical right-wing political movements in the American West.

Bonus Content: Close Encounters of the Doggy Kind and some Trotsky quotes

Primary Sources:
Michael J. Goleman,
Wave of...

News of Njuzu: Mermaids and Modernity in Postcolonial Zimbabwe

In 2012, workers building on a dam in Zimbabwe all walked off the job in protest of unsafe working conditions. What made this story international news was that the workplace danger was mermaids. This week, we discuss the spiritual significance of the njuzu, or the mermaid in Shona indigenous religion, how the country’s troubled history of colonialism informs this belief, and what it all has to do with a massive religious revival in the early 1990s.

Bonus: The Imperial Gaze in western paranormal podcasts

Thanks to Ian Lee for the Creepy Internationale theme song an...

Mao's Ghost and Talking Toads

Hey all! This week we discuss the history of Chinese Communism as it relates to the world of ghosts and demons, obviously.
Bonus: The perils of giving birth to loquacious amphibians. 

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Famine, Femicide and Fairies

We discuss the strange story of Bridget Cleary, an Irish woman murdered in 1895 after her husband became convinced she was a fairy.  Her death was quickly utilized by British newspapers to justify their opposition to Irish Home Rule. Along the way, we talk about gender roles, political struggle, and the fairy faith in 19th century Ireland.


Bonus Content: Is Bigfoot a modern fairy?

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Are All Socialists Part Yeti?

Are Communists the secret descendants of Yeti?

In today's episode, we explore the influence early 20th-century antisemitism had on the ideas of the Polish sculptor Stanislav Szuchalski.  

Bonus: How to learn anatomy by dissecting your own father

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Love, Sex, and the Devil in Colonial Mexico

Love magic was a constant fixture of daily life in colonial New Mexico, and we discuss how accusations of witchcraft were used by the Spanish Inquisition to mediate gender, class, and racial conflict in a deeply unequal society.

Bonus content: What to do if your dog is also the Devil, the proper care and feeding of enchanted male “parts”

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White Sheets in the Night: Supernatural Terror and Slavery

Content Warning: This episode contains discussions of racism, violence, and sexual abuse that some listeners may find disturbing.

We explore the origins of the Ku Klux Klan's tradition of masquerading as ghosts. We discuss the work of pioneering Black folklorist Gladys-Marie Fry, who documented this system of supernatural psychological control in her 1975 book Night Riders in Black Folk History.

Bonus Content: Labial Lincoln

Theme Music by Ian Lee

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Name Change and Season 2 Updates

Why we changed our podcast from Shit Gets Weird to the Workers Cauldron

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A Very Weird Christmas (Season 1 Finale)

This episode we discuss the dark folklore around Christmas and how traditions ranging from Icelandic Christmas ogresses to the American Santa Claus have evolved with changing economies and social norms.

Bonus Content: A carnivorous Christmas cat, making Yuletide scarves from the intestines of naughty children, and why getting drunk at work is the real reason for the season.

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Sweatshop Possessions

An episode under the former podcast name of Sh** Gets Weird.

This time  we explore mass spirit possessions in Southeast Asian factories. We discuss how the histories of colonialism, Cold War atrocities, and neoliberal policies collide with traditional spiritual beliefs, and how this, in turn, informs mass protests against capitalist work discipline.

Bonus Content: spectral were-tigers, ghosts on microchips, and tampon sniffing spirits

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Native Ghosts in White America

An episode under the former podcast name of Sh** Gets Weird.

In this episode we explore how the history of settler-colonialism brought us the trope of the "Indian Ghost." We discuss spectral Indians in European American literature, how spiritualists confronted the genocidal western settlement, why Ghost Dances became popular, and why you might have anxiety about a house build on "Indian burial grounds." Content warning: contains discussions of racism and genocide

Bonus content: Failed Ramones covers, why Sitting Bull mocked Annie Oakley.

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The Devil and Capital in Bolivia

An episode under the former podcast name of Sh** Gets Weird.

This episode explores the ideas of Michael Taussig, an anthropologist who wrote The Devil and Commodity Fetishism, a classic in the field of Marxist anthropology. We will discuss how indigenous Andean belief systems adapted and resisted those imposed by Catholic colonizers, and its relevance to political struggle in Bolivia today.

Bonus: Why the Devil of the Mines always has a boner.

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Neoliberal Demonomics

An episode under the former podcast name of Sh** Gets Weird.

How the economic crisis of the 1970's, and the capitalist response to it, popularized a belief in the demonic among American Christians. From Traditionalist Catholics to Charismatic Evangelicals, from The Exorcist to the Satanic Panic, the neoliberal era is crawling with the diabolic. 

Bonus content: The sexual life of home furniture.

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Class Struggle and the Loch Ness Monster

An episode under the former podcast name of Sh** Gets Weird.

What does the social history of Scotland tell us about the mysterious monster of Loch Ness? In this episode, we explore the earliest documentation of something weird in the lake, discuss the monstrous denizens of Highland folklore, and discuss how the monster we know today emerged in the Great Depression.

Bonus content: Irresistible demonic ponies

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