JournalistI am an Alabama-based Weird News Reporter who writes about seriously weird stuff, like haunted asylums and Bigfoot. AMA
May 19th 2017 by aldotcom • 35 Questions • 6978 Points
I’m Kelly Kazek (Kay-zick). My title is Weird News Reporter and humor columnist for AL.com. That means I actually get paid to write about things like World’s Largest roadside attractions, car-part art, Bigfoot, haunted mental asylums and more. Although my AL.com stories are mostly about Alabama, I also write a lot about the South and I’ve visited weird sites across the country. I am also the author of 8 books and have a blog at KellyKazek.com. You can follow me on Twitter at @kellykazek.
I was a single mom for 20 years after my Baby Girl’s father died, and I remarried in October 2016. Sweetums is a 6-foot-7 Bigfoot enthusiast and we had a Weird Road Trip-themed wedding with a roadside attractions cake.
Ask Me Anything!
UPDATE at 7:20 p.m.: You guys are so good at asking questions. My arm is about to fall off! I will check back some over the weekend and answer some more. Thank you so much.
What are some of the weirdest sites you have visited?
Edit : autocorrect
In Alabama, my favorite is the Lady in the Bay. She’s a huge sculpture at Barber’s Marina in Elberta. She was commissioned by businessman George Barber, who has a great sense of fun and who also owns Barber Motorsports Park and Museum in Birmingham, where he keeps the world’s largest collection of motorcycles. He’s also responsible for Alabama’s Stonehenge replica, located in the same area. The Lady in the Bay, which I think is currently in dry dock for restoration, is interesting because she is a giant head and knees sticking out of the water. She kinda looks like she’s giving birth. You can see her here. Of course, I also love the fictional town of Spectre, an abandoned movie set near Montgomery AL where Tim Burton filmed “Big Fish” and where I got married. As for weirdest, there are so many. For instance, I got to view a collection of item saved from old Bryce Hospital, such as old electric shock machines and straight jackets, and as mentioned below, I saw some tiny teddy bears made of belly button lint last weekend, which was pretty awesome. And also, a portable embalming machine
What's the weirdest thing you've personally witnessed?
If you mean as in Bigfoot or ghosts, I haven't seen those but I write about people who say they have. As far as roadside attractions, I've seen some seriously weird stuff. Last weekend, I saw tiny teddy bears (about 2 inches) made of belly button lint.
Have you ever gone to visit a local legend with fair certainty that it is a total hoax only to have your mind changed by what you saw? If so, what happened?
Yes. Gravity Hill near Sylacauga. It really does work. Click here to read about it.
As a journalist in Alabama, how did you feel about the portrayal of rural Alabama in the podcast S-Town?
Although, I hate to admit I haven't listened to all of it, I have heard about it's portrayals. As I wrote below, there is a delicate balance between making fun of the rural south and embracing its quirkiness. I plan to go listen and then I could answer better.
Do you need source material?
I know a gentleman (70 year old lawyer in Memphis) who ran into Bigfoot twice in the late 70s. I had heard about him for a decade, and a few years ago finally got to meet him. He has ZERO belief in anything paranormal or cryptozoological, but was in the Mark Twain National Forest and Bigfoot walked right up to him. Face to face.
Takes him a full hour to tell the story. Of everything I have seen or read about the unknown, this guy was far and away the most believable. I came away 100% convinced...and I tend to be a skeptic.
Ever since I heard his tale, I have felt like someone needs to document this guy.
Yes. I love that. Email [email protected]
Hahaha. I will when I need you. And I hope I don't need you!
I do not believe in ghosts but I believe in the possibility. I suspect if I ever saw one, I'd believe! Same for Bigfoot, etc. I am a journalist who strives for accuracy and truth so in my stories on the subject of legendary creatures or ghosts, I always use the phrase “according to legend.”
How did you get this job? What do you think about how the south is portrayed in tv/film? Guessing you've probably seen most of those places irl
I’ve been drawn to unusual topics since I became a reporter 31 years ago. Even when I was writing hard news, stories about tornado destruction and murders, I liked to write humor columns about odd trends and stories about quirky and little-known history and roadside attractions. I came to AL.com in 2012 when it launched its new brand focused on digital news. Managers said they wanted a “buzz reporter,” someone who wrote about trends. I asked if I could continue my humor column and write about weird stuff like our Stonehenge replica and strange town names and the Wolf Woman of Mobile. My Odd Travels feature was born. At first, I also wrote some news until eventually the feature became so popular that I was writing about Weird Alabama full-time. And the unofficial title is weird news, so I often write about strange headlines such as the founding of a nude church and why men have more belly button lint than women. You know, news you can use… As for the portrayal of the south, I think it's great that we embrace our quirkiness here. We don't hide our eccentrics, we put them right out on the front porch. However, sometimes when people outside the south write about us, it comes across as making fun of us. I strive to always maintain the balance of fun and hope others will too.
You're in Alabama! I wanna know where the gold at! Any insights on the Leprechaun of Mobile???
hahaha. I would LOVE to meet the Leprechaun of Mobile. Alas, I have missed him. But I have written about the Wolf Woman of Mobile. Click here to read about her. As for gold, here are a couple of pirate stories. People tend to forget we have a coastline.
Who has the weirder job these days -- you, covering weird news, or your colleagues covering Alabama state politics?
Great question! Here's the difference: They work really really hard to uncover information for the public and then I get to take that info and write silly stuff about it. So... me! Sadly, it's a great time to be a weird news reporter and humorist in Alabama. This column was about Bentley's "parts."
Bigfoots, Bigfeets? My fave is the one I came up with: Sasqui.
Hi Kelly, thanks for doing this Ama. I loved "Forgotten Tales of Tennessee", I received it as a gift a few years ago.
Have you ever read Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins? Or American Gods by Neil Gaiman?
Also, do you think you'll write any more books? I'd love to see a "Forgotten Tales of North Carolina"-- we have some pretty cool stuff here, ever been to Asheville?
Edit: Neil Gaiman not Terry Pratchett
Ooooh! I love getting book recommendations. I will have to read those. Thanks! The majority of my books have been about quirky regional history but one if a collection of humor columns called "Fairly Odd Mother: Musings of a Slightly Off Southern Mom.". I also have written a humor book about being a weird news reporter (working title: “Not Quite Right: Because Not Just Anyone Can Be a Weird News Reporter”) that I am shopping for an agent or publisher. I hope something will come of that. And thank you so much for the kind words.
Isn't the Alabama Bigfoot just ole Cletus from down yonder? Big ol'fella, strong as an ox, but a bit slow bless his heart.
And God love him.
I imagine it is interesting interviewing the public on these subjects as believers can be SO passionate. What interview that you conducted did you find to be the most persuasive/ gave the most "evidence"?
The one I did recently abut the Alabama Booger Monster was the most convincing. Or the interviewees seemed to be the most convinced and the most credible. I also often talk to people from MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, and various paranormal groups. They claim to have seen things and I can't argue. The Fyffe UFO sightings are a great example. The witness was a police chief. And yes I love talking to folks who are passionate about their beliefs.
I've been to two reportedly haunted asylums. They were scary because of the state of the dilapidated buildings and the fact that they once had many mentally ill patients inside who may have been mistreated at times. They were Bryce Hospital, the old Alabama State Hospital for the Insane, and Searcy Hospital, formerly the Alabama State Hospital for the Colored Insane. Also I was pretty freaked out at Jemison, another once-segregated hospital for the mentally ill that is now abandoned. Note: These are all on private property and are guarded. Do not visit without permission.
Have you ever heard of or covered the supposed underground river under UAB?
Yes! Kinda like the caves under the Madison County Courthouse in Madison, which is a real thing. I would love to be able to learn more about the underground river. Do you have info?
Just looked it up and can't wait to check it out in detail. Thanks for putting me onto it.
If you see an actual sasquatch, do you intend to kill and study it?
Omigosh! There is actually a big debate about this. The Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research group said they planned to kill one and people went crazy. It's like PETA for Bigfoot and HE'S NOT EVEN REAL! Lol. I love human beings. We are so crazy!
Do you have any friends or acquaintances in the same profession but in another part of the country? Do you have more activity being in Alabama, or is there other parts of the US that have more paranormal/strange happenings occur?
Actually, there is plenty of weirdness to go around, especially in Florida. I don't know any other Weird News Reporters. I try to visit lots of places outside of Alabama, as well, and have been to sites in 25 states. Lemp Mansion in St. Louis was my most recent "haunted site." Alabama has a lot of Bigfoot sightings at the moment but I don't know the reason for that.
Thank you for this ama, truly interesting.
Have there been any bigfoot sightings since Mr Strange went to DC?
hahaha. This is awesome! Big Luther is 6-foot-9 and could easily be mistaken for the big guy. However, my husband Sweeums is 6-foot-7 and he's still in Alabama. He tells me he wants a Bigfoot costume. I tell him he'll get shot. If he puts the life insurance in my name, he can have one.
Do people in different subcultures have similarities? Like UFO people or people really into ghosts (in terms of Age/race/personality)
Interesting question. From what I have seen, people stick with one interest but within those groups ages, etc, vary widely
I never discount the possibility of things that could happen. It's a big universe and what if it weren't the only one? I just say I'll believe in them when I see one.
Anything weird in the Huntsville area? I'm from Decatur and would love to hear of any weird thing I've possibly missed nearby
There is so much interesting stuff here in Huntsville. There is the Dead Children's Playground at Maple Hill Cemetery and lots of quirky roadside stuff like the Eggbeater Jesus mosaic.. You should take the Huntsville Ghost Walk. If I think of more, I'll come back.
Yes, and I recently got to go into a Civil War-era tunnel beneath the Malaga Inn. I had to crawl through dirt and then came upon an old cot with the canvas bed in tatters. It was very creepy. My fave was Searcy Hospital in Mt. Vernon nearby.
I was in a doctor's waiting room in Huntsville this morning and saw something that made me laugh. You know you're in the South when you see a "Guns & Ammo" magazine in a waiting room. What's the most Southern thing you've seen?
That is awesome! I love that. I've written lots about southern phrases and southern mamas. I love this saying I put on a meme for my blog: "I'm southern so if I carry out my threat to slap you into next week, don't worry. I'll bring a casserole." Here are more southern things I have written that are pinned to a board on Pinterest. Just click each link for the story.
If I ever see one, I'm certainly not gonna smell his nether regions so you're on your own to find the answer.
Hi, Kelly. What was on your roadside attraction cake at your wedding?
It was awesome! Made by Michelle Wilbourn in Athens. It was in the shape of Alabama and included a rocket at Huntsville, a Magic City sign at Bham, a Coon Dog Cemetery sign, a replica of the little church at Spectre and the big shark at Souvenir City in Gulf Shores. Here's a pic.
Have you ever heard of any hauntings at UAB? I work in one of the buildings near the VA hospital and my area definitely has some paranormal activity going on. I'm here at 6 am every day, and I'm in a card access only, fairly small area, and I'll hear doors on my hall opening and closing and hear plastic containers being slammed on the floor, but I'm the only person here and nothing has fallen and there's no mess. I constantly see shadow figures walking in the hallway. I've got a friend who works on a floor below me and he doesn't experience the same things.
Also, did you ever report on the Marie Hilley murder(s) back in the 70s when she was in Anniston?
I have heard of hauntings at every university in Alabama. There are always legends at colleges. However, I haven't heard credible reports from UAB. Maybe someone reading has and will share. As for Audrey Marie Hilley, what a bizarre case. It fascinates me. I voted her the most notorious person from Calhoun County in this post. Also, check out these other "black widows."
Burritos. Every time.
On a scale of one to ten, what is your deep down honest belief in the majority of the crypto monsters? (you don't have to count Bigfoot because we all know he is real)
Hahaha. I don't know...when you think of all the things that exist on the depths of the ocean that we haven't discovered...I think most anything is possible. But as a reporter, I need evidence. Bring me some! :)