Bridget Lee Pendell-Williamson was 23 when she disappeared following the Grateful Dead in 1996.
Douglas Simmons was last seen at a Grateful Dead concert in 1990.
Mitchel Fred Weiser and his girlfriend Bonita Bickwit went missing while hitchhiking to a Grateful Dead concert in 1993.
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In 1995, a man’s body was found on the side of a freeway during a Grateful Dead concert in Atlanta. His identity is still unknown.
In 2008, a woman’s body was discovered by a fisherman under a box spring in Sacramento. His cause of death and his identity are still unknown. The only marker: she was wearing a Grateful Dead jacket.
A murdered woman was found in the woods of Warren County, New Jersey, in 1991. The only identifying feature on her mutilated body was a tiger tattoo on her left leg – the same tiger design on Jerry’s guitar Garcia.
Two men were found dead in a horrific Volkswagen van crash in 1995, but only one of the men could be identified. The only clue to the identity of the second person: two Grateful Dead tickets in his pocket.
“When you think of the Grateful Dead, you think of peace and love, music and community,” podcaster Jake Brennan told The Daily Beast. “You are not thinking of the murder and the real crime.”
Brennan and co-host Payne Lindsey are behind the podcast Dead and buried, which has drawn attention since its release earlier this month for its investigations into the unusual wave of missing and murdered fans of the Grateful Dead, better known as the Deadheads. (The cases mentioned above are just a few examples.)
There is a record-breaking plot in the apparent dissonance between the vibe associated with the psychedelic-devouring, hippie-biased, tie-dye-devouring anti-establishment fan community and the obscurity highlighting the violent crimes and mysteries depicted in Dead and buried.
The podcast explores the surprising darkness at the heart of the music of The Dead and the culture around them, and the phenomenon of the Deadheads’ vulnerability, in their free-wheeling nature, to predation.
While examining the series of cases all sharing a Deadhead connection, Dead and buried zeros in particular about the double homicide of Mary Gioia and Greg Kniffin, who were 22 and 18, respectively, when they were murdered at the free Rainbow Village fan camp in San Francisco in 1985. The couple planned to crash into the town of Deadhead for a few nights. They were found beaten and shot.
A 31-year-old black man, Ralph International Thomas, was sentenced to death for the murders, but it was revealed years later that he had been wrongly convicted and that the real culprit could still be at large. (American systemic racism exists even inside Rainbow Village.) The podcast then launches an investigation: Who killed Mary and Greg?
“The Grateful Dead fan base is so huge, fans across generations and all over the world,” says Lindsey. “Every time something about Grateful Dead comes out, it piques the interest of millions of people from all walks of life. There is this very solid network of people who communicate very well with each other, who want to see justice.
The point is right from the start that there is no serial killer who has been stalking Deadheads for decades. As the prolific cybersleuth Todd Matthews explains in an interview, what he established by linking these cases to the Grateful Dead fandom of the victims is one commonality that draws attention – Murder and the Grateful Dead are quite enticing in regards to the headlines – and hopefully helps with the problem. case.
“The real commonality is this kind of vulnerability that exists in many subgroups of people,” says Lindsey. “The significance of all of this is that by grouping them together like that and giving them a nickname, it creates that commonality that is noticed. And so the folks who are part of the Grateful Dead world will see that, and they’re probably the ones who could help solve it.
It’s tempting to generalize about Deadheads to get to the heart of this vulnerability, but it’s also helpful to understand why there is a link between these cases.
“When you think of the Grateful Dead, you think of peace and love, music and community. You don’t think about murder and the real crime.“
Dead and buried features talks with Deadheads reminiscent of the vibe of concerts and camps, where drunkenness and euphorically family community blend together for a high of undeterred and disoriented confidence. A carefree attitude of acceptance can turn that whole tie-dye chain into a target.
“There are many opportunities for a wolf in sheep’s clothing to take advantage of the vulnerability,” says Lindsey.
Fan describes tickets scalped in the parking lot and, in all the ecstasy of excitement, not realizing until long before the post-concert celebrations that he had no memory of where he had parked his car. Others tell of intentionally jumping from van to van and tent to tent at parties and the common practice of hitchhiking, all while getting high and messy.
“Don’t look like a bossy square…” Brennan begins. “And the Grateful Dead, obviously they have nothing to do with that and we don’t blame them. But they live and preach this super anti-authority lifestyle, even after becoming an institution themselves. Being a Deadhead and traveling the road following the band was living outside the confines of society, and there is anarchy that goes with it. This is ultimately part of what has contributed to this environment of vulnerability where people have disappeared and lost their lives. “
Riding a wave of true pop culture crime obsession, the Dead and buried Hosts attribute a “chocolate and peanut butter” appeal to mixing the Grateful Dead lore with real crime, two things that don’t seem to go hand in hand but end up being a compelling combination.
Lindsey’s background is in actual crime investigations, having created the podcasts Up and gone, about the disappearance in a cold case of a former beauty queen in Georgia, and Atlanta Monster, about the infamous murders of 25 children in the city from 1979 to 1981. And while Brennan’s podcast Disgraceland was talking about musicians who got away with murder, he largely didn’t know the dead and their fanbase before working on Dead and buried.
One thing that struck them both after interviewing Deadheads from across the country is how many of them weren’t surprised to learn of these murders, a recognition of the darkness that always seemed to lurk in those sketchy parking lots. and those risky invitations. by strangers.
“This obscurity is not only prevalent in the history of the Grateful Dead culture, the people who went to see the show and things that happened to them that we explore through the murders here, but the other part of this one is – and this is not said on the surface of the tale of the dead – that the darkness is also fairly well represented in the song, “Brennan says, quoting” Dire Wolf “and” Death Don’t Have Mercy ” as examples.
“It’s just ironic that some of these stories of murder and violence came to fruition in some ways at the concerts of Dead and in the community of Deadhead.
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