250 episodes

The world is more mysterious than most people are comfortable imagining. We cross paths with the mystical from time to time and may not even notice it. If we do, we quickly return to our usually mundane daily existence. But what if we not only acknowledged the unknown, we investigated it and spoke with those in the know? That’s what co-hosts Scott & Forrest, and their producer Tess Pfeifle do at Astonishing Legends. Over 85 million downloads and hundreds of thousands of listeners have shown that exploring and embracing the wonders of our world can be not only enlightening but exciting.  Welcome to Astonishing Legends!

Astonishing Legends Scott Philbrook & Forrest Burgess

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.6 • 8.5K Ratings

The world is more mysterious than most people are comfortable imagining. We cross paths with the mystical from time to time and may not even notice it. If we do, we quickly return to our usually mundane daily existence. But what if we not only acknowledged the unknown, we investigated it and spoke with those in the know? That’s what co-hosts Scott & Forrest, and their producer Tess Pfeifle do at Astonishing Legends. Over 85 million downloads and hundreds of thousands of listeners have shown that exploring and embracing the wonders of our world can be not only enlightening but exciting.  Welcome to Astonishing Legends!

    Mel's Hole Part 2

    Mel's Hole Part 2

    As we dive further into the epic of Mel's Hole, we learn that in the third phone call to Art Bell on the Coast to Coast AM radio show on April 24, 2000, Mel reveals what had happened to him since his initial calls in 1997. After supposedly taking the deal from the US government to relocate to Australia and receive a compensation of $250,000 per month for the lease of the land he received in a divorce settlement from his wife, Mel was happy to continue his research with medicinal plants and efforts with wombat rescue near Perth. However, upon Mel's return to the US and helping his nephew move from Tacoma to Olympia on the day he was scheduled to return to the program for a follow-up interview, there was an altercation on the bus he was riding. Mel was detained for questioning and told he would be transported back to Tacoma once authorities concluded their investigation. The next thing Mel remembered is waking up in an alley in San Francisco, missing his wallet, keys, belt buckle, and all of his back molar teeth. There was evidence that Mel was administered an IV for the twelve days he was blacked out. He had also discovered that his land lease was revoked, ironically for improper use of the property while he was away. Now broke and struggling to continue his endeavors, Mel would call Art two more times with an update, on January 29 and December 20, 2002, and his story would only get weirder and wilder. In the time leading up to these calls, Mel was contacted by Native Americans in the northern Nevada region who offered to collaborate on medicinal herb research. While sharing knowledge, they made him aware of another mysterious hole that may have enhanced their plants, this time on federal property used as grazing land for a community of Basque shepherds. Mel would continue captivating Art with tales of fiery ice exhibiting cosmically dense properties and a sentient, otherworldly creature exiting the hole. Not only that, but Mel possessed US dimes that might be proof of a parallel reality, the same ones that he'd affixed to his stolen belt buckle. Like almost every unbelievable tale we've come across, there are a couple of logical assessments when we get to the bottom. If this was all a hoax, it was well-crafted, consistent, meted out with increasingly enthralling details over five years, and managed to engross one of America's premier presenters of the paranormal along with the broader audience. If all or any part of Mel's story is genuine, then the implications are astounding. But no matter if you believe "Mel" or his story made you roll your eyes and chuckle, for most of us who enjoy this kind of fare, it's proved to be a classic astonishing legend.

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    • 3 hr 33 min
    Mel's Hole Part 1

    Mel's Hole Part 1

    One of the most enduring and pervasive tropes to ever capture the human imagination is the concept of a "bottomless pit." On Friday, February 22, 1997, a man calling himself "Mel Waters" had faxed Art Bell, the much-beloved and sadly now-passed host of the highly-rated, paranormal-themed radio talk show, Coast to Coast AM, claiming to have one on his property. Mel said his property is about nine miles west of Ellensburg, Washington, adjacent to Manastash Ridge. He and his neighbors and the property's previous owners had thrown their trash into the hole for decades. The 9' 9" in diameter hole had received everything from household waste and furniture to building debris to dead cows for as long as anyone could remember, yet it never seemed to fill up. Mel became self-admittedly obsessed with determining the depth of this curiosity. Being a former semi-pro shark fisherman, Mel had lowered three reels of 20 lb. fishing line with a one-pound weight at the end. After 1500 yards of monofilament and not hitting bottom, Mel began buying the fishing line in bulk reels to continue his experiment. When he expended 80,000 feet (24,384 m) of line and still not reaching the end as far as he could tell, Mel contacted Art to get explanations from his vast audience or ideas about what to try next. Aside from an undetermined depth, not much else was particularly strange about the pit to Mel except that dogs refused to get within 100 feet of it, and birds wouldn't sit on its stone retaining wall or metal cover. Also unusual was that no echo from the hole could be heard, nor anything crashing on its floor even when objects as unwieldy as refrigerators or television CRT tubes were tossed in. This description of what Mel thought might be the deepest hole on Earth intrigued Art, and he called Mel for an interview that night. During the discussion, Mel also relayed some other fascinating folklore he'd heard, such as a hunter tossing his deceased dog, only for it later to be seen running around but not answering his call. Another neighbor had told Mel that he once saw a "blacker than black" beam shooting up into the sky from the hole on a recent evening. This could just be another puzzling and amusing anecdote from one of the usual characters calling into the show, except Mel contacted Art on February 24 with some startling news. Mel claimed that the day after his first call, the land where the hole was located had been seized by armed military personnel who denied him access with veiled threats while heavy equipment was brought in. Mel Waters would call in for an update interview two more times in April 2000 and January 2002, but for 1997, the mystery of Mel and his hole would pause with a purported offer from the US Government that he couldn't refuse. Join us for Part 1 of this "Best of Art Bell" saga as we dive deep into the legend of "Mel's Hole."



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    • 2 hr 22 min
    What it Wasn't - Or How I Learned to Stop Dismissively Categorizing Potentially Paranormal Events as Mass Hysteria

    What it Wasn't - Or How I Learned to Stop Dismissively Categorizing Potentially Paranormal Events as Mass Hysteria

    Often when one hears about some group of people claiming to experience a highly strange event or similarly acting out in bizarre and irrational manners, it's easy and common to dismiss the episode as a case of "mass hysteria." Phenomena like the audience reaction to Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast, "The Dancing Plague of 1518," the "Windshield-Pitting Mystery of 1954," and "The Mad Gasser of Mattoon" are considered by much of the public to be examples of mass hysteria. In the late 1930s and decades after, some sociologists used occurrences like those to help model their theory of "Social Contagion." Like the idea that one or several people claim to experience something unusual, others hear about it and start to see the same thing. Soon it all spirals into an epidemic of vast numbers of people all testifying to the same weirdness with no real, mystical cause. But is the potentially antiquated term of mass hysteria or even its modern descendant "mass psychogenic illness" accurate or helpful? When explaining how some collectives of people can declare to see the same impossible thing, or how communities usually react in predictable patterns when faced with the Fortean, are they all just "hysterical" or "ill?" Are these events all the same? With the Enfield Monster, sociologist David L. Miller used the incident as a case study for what seems a more suitable way to think about many of the stories we cover, not as contagion or hysteria, but as "Collective Action and Behavior." We may never know what these cryptic creatures and mysterious happenings genuinely are, but at least we can better understand how people react to them and each other when they show up. Regarding the experiencers, we can know what it wasn't. These are important considerations because, after all, what is the value to humans if a paranormal event occurs and no one is around to witness it?

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    • 2 hr 57 min
    The Enfield Horror and other Midwest Monsters

    The Enfield Horror and other Midwest Monsters

    On the evening of April 15, 1973, Enfield, Illinois, resident Henry McDaniel heard a scratching noise outside his door he thought might be a bear. He opened it to find a hideous creature he described as having "... three legs on it, a short body, two little, short arms coming out of its breast area, and two pink eyes as big as flashlights. It stood four and a half feet tall and was grayish colored. It was trying to get into the house." McDaniel grabbed his pistol and a flashlight and fired four shots at the beast, which was only 12 feet away, sure that he had hit it with the first shot. The bullets had no effect on the beast, as it made a hissing sound at McDaniel "much like a wildcat's" before bounding 50 to 75 feet towards a brush-lined railroad embankment in just three leaps. A neighbor of McDaniel's, ten-year-old Greg Garrett, claimed that 30 minutes before this encounter, the same creature had accosted him in his backyard, stepping on his sneakers and ripping them to shreds before the boy ran inside terrified. However, as a team of sociologists from Western Illinois University interviewed witnesses and townsfolk, Greg and his parents would later tell them they had concocted the story to tease their eccentric neighbor McDaniel and put one over on an out-of-town newsman. McDaniel would spot the same or similar creature again on May 6, around 3:00 a.m., casually ambling down the railroad track. After McDaniel reported his second sighting to WWKI radio, the media, thrill-seekers, and the sociologists mentioned above all came to Enfield to investigate, including the radio station's News Director, Rick Rainbow. Rainbow and three associates had their own run-in with a monster near McDaniel's place. Also joining the investigation was noted cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, along with famed WGN radio host Richard Crowe. Both experienced men would hear what Coleman described as "the most ungodly, piercing shriek you can imagine." Whatever this being or beings were, it became known as "The Enfield Horror" or "The Enfield Monster." It would be easy enough to pass off this tale as the fanciful yarn of a crackpot and some eager cryptid hunters who were the only ones in town to claim a brush with the beast, but were these Enfield monster sightings an isolated event? According to Coleman, in his later book, Bigfoot!: The True Story of Apes in America, there was a flap of different monster sightings in the Midwest before, during, and years after Enfield, yielding colorful names like "Momo" and "The Big Muddy Monster." Considering all these accounts that don't sound like the suggested kangaroos, bears, dogs, calves, deer, or escaped apes, could McDaniel have been right when he said, "If they do find it, they will find more than one, and they won't be from this planet, I can tell you that."

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    • 1 hr 32 min
    Charles Fort - Our Supernatural Father Part 2

    Charles Fort - Our Supernatural Father Part 2

    In the second part of our series on Charles Hoy Fort, we first return to the formative events of his adolescence that shaped his personality, career, and personal philosophies. Fort chronicled anecdotes from his youth in an unpublished manuscript titled Many Parts, written while in his 20s and of which only fragments remain. What can be gleaned from tales of his boisterous boyhood adventures, punctuated by harsh punishments from a strict father, is that it all instilled in Fort defiance of rules, dogma, and the expectations of hallowed establishments. He struggled to make sense of a childhood world that seemed rife with capricious events and outcomes, much as he later struggled to make sense of an adult world peppered with anomalous occurrences and their close-minded dismissal. We then examine Fort's journey from middle age to the end and his mindset towards and relationship with strange evidence. Just as he had been since he was a kid, Fort remained a collector. First of birds and rocks, then later stories of things that shouldn't happen yet still seemed to. And just as he had lost interest in labeling his natural finds in his teens, Fort perhaps lost interest in defining the enigmas he gathered and instead focused not on the labels and definitions but on the meaning and mechanics behind them. As much as Fort proved to be a "fly in the ointment" to hubristic scientists, critics, and clergy alike, his point was that the events themselves remained even more problematic, or as he wrote, "They will march." We must accept that the weirdness of our reality defies absolute conclusions. As we've also found with our research, any judgments on the impossible essentially boil down to belief. Or, as Fort summed up, "Here are the data. Make what you will, yourself, of them. . . . We have expressions: we don't call them explanations. We've discarded explanations with beliefs." If there is any conclusion we perhaps share with Charles Fort, it is this: if the paranormal and the supernatural genuinely exist, it certainly doesn't care what anyone believes.

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    • 2 hr 17 min
    Charles Fort - Our Supernatural Father Part 1

    Charles Fort - Our Supernatural Father Part 1

    Perhaps most everyone listening to this show is familiar with the term "Fortean," meaning something related to the paranormal, the supernatural, or just generally strange phenomena. But where did that term come from? How did "Forteana" come to describe many of the topics we cover on the podcast? We owe that cognomen and a good deal of our inspiration for our reportage to the work of one man, Charles Hoy Fort. Fort (b. August 6, 1874 - d. May 3, 1932) was a journalist, author, and researcher best known for his collection of accounts of extraordinary incidents and bizarre phenomena. These reports and Fort's commentaries and speculations on them mostly ended up in four books: The Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo!  (1931), and Wild Talents (1932). Within these volumes of nonfiction are found testimonies of rains of meat, frogs, blood, manna, black rain, and unbelievably large stones, poltergeists and spontaneous human combustion, vampires, animal mutilations, UFOs, and alien abductions – anomalies we're familiar with nowadays. Fort is also widely credited for coining the term "teleportation." However, there were likely no other compilations of these incredible tales in Fort's time or before, aside from local newspaper reports. For that reason alone, those of us who are fascinated by such subjects owe him a debt of gratitude. For over 30 years, Fort pored over magazines, books, newspapers, and scientific journals in New York and London libraries and had amassed thousands of notes on odd occurrences. By his own account, Fort would become discouraged by the futility of his endeavors and purpose and claimed to have tossed into the wind around 48,000 notes once while sitting on a park bench at The Cloisters in New York City. Yet his defiance at the dismissal or ridicule from contemporary scientists, or the mystification by religious thinking about these happenings, kept him working until the end. Fort's theories about the causes of such impossibilities would evolve or vacillate throughout his oeuvre, sometimes even within the same book. Whether speculating that the paranormal is the prank of some kind of "Cosmic Joker," to these aberrations being the vestigial byproducts of extraordinary primordial human survival skills, Fort remained compelled by their occurrences regardless. As suggested by the title, The Book of the Damned, Fort postulated that the facts of these cases were "damned" to be excluded by science. Yet no amount of scoffing from anyone would keep the data from these baffling events from proceeding – "they'll march" on, and so did Charles Hoy Fort. We're glad that they, and he, did.

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    • 2 hr 18 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
8.5K Ratings

8.5K Ratings

jamestwmsn ,

My favorite podcast

I could listen to them for hours, and I do!

Vagneur ,

Astonishing Podcast!

Such a great show. Scott and Forrest are funny and crazy intelligent. Thank you for such a great podcast.

faithwolfe ,

Rambling

Great stories but they ramble about things off topic for about 1/3 of the show.

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