February 20, 2020

#157 Pierre Delecto and the Spooky Adventure

by Reply All

This week, we talk to the world’s most obsessive tracker of politicians' secret online lives. And ask for help on a very spooky mission.



Further Reading:

Ashley's article on James Comey's secret twitter and instagram accounts: https://gizmodo.com/this-is-almost-certainly-james-comey-s-twitter-account-1793843641

Ashley's article on Mitt Romney's secret twitter account: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/10/mitt-romney-has-a-secret-twitter-account-and-it-sure-looks-like-its-this-one.html

Ashley's article on Pete Buttigieg's Wikipedia page: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/12/pete-buttigieg-wikipedia-page-editor.html


Find out more about our summer and fall internships here:

https://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/posts/internships

Transcript

PJ VOGT: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I’m PJ Vogt. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: And I'm Alex Goldman.


PJ: Alex?


ALEX: Yes?


PJ: We're trying something—we're trying a new segment this week. Uh...


ALEX: Uhh I'm always a little nervous about trying new segments because what if we try it once and then we're like, "We're never doing this again."


PJ: Then we'll never do it again. It'll be fine.


ALEX: Alright, we're trying a new segment everybody. We may never do it again. 


PJ: Yeah, we'll see. Um, so, uh, the segment, we’re gonna call it Deep Dive. Here’s the theme song: 


[Deep Dive theme song plays]


And the idea is that one of us will talk to somebody who has just gotten way deeper into some weird, mysterious pocket of the internet than you or I is really capable of going. 


ALEX: Yeah and then we’ll talk to them and be like “how-how exactly did you do this”? Um, so this week I spoke to this reporter whose articles I’ve really enjoyed. Her name’s uh Ashley Feinberg—she writes at Slate. And I think it’s safe to say that like politicians live in a low level fear of her. 


ALEX: What-what is your—do you have a beat?


ASHLEY FEINBERG: Uh, I mean, yes? But like, it’s-this is the part of the problem is anytime anyone asks me that question, like I— the easy answer is like, “Internet culture and politics,” but it’s really just sort of anything I think is like bad or funny or weird. 


ALEX: My favorite thing about Ashley is her ability to catch politicians in what are basically their most unguarded moments on the internet. And it’s not like she's using hacking tools or any kind of specialized technology to do this—she’s just really good at finding embarrassing secrets that are sort of hidden in plain sight. It’s-it feels like kind of like a superpower to me, but it does piss a lot of people off.


ASHLEY: I mean there's uh some chorus of, “How dare you invade this person's privacy,” and uh “This isn’t journalism. This is like digging through garbage,” like blah, blah, blah. Which like, a) yes, like the internet is garbage. So like, it is digging through garbage [ALEX: laughs] in like that capacity. But, uh anything you can find out about a powerful public person should be public knowledge.


ALEX: Ashley’s first major political catch was in um 2017 when then-FBI director James Comey gave a speech where he said that he had a secret Instagram account.


COMEY: I have an Instagram account with 9 followers—nobody’s getting in...they’re all immediate relatives and then one daughter’s serious boyfriend—I let them in cause they’re serious enough.


ALEX: And so Ashley’s just like, “Hey, thanks for all the clues that might help me find your hidden account. I’m gonna go try and find it now.” 


PJ: Okay.


Alex: So the first thing she did was go on Instagram and start looking at James Comey's relatives. But, most of those accounts were private, and it's really hard to get any information from a private account. 


PJ: Right.


ALEX: Luckily for Ashley, the way that the Instagram algorithm worked at that time, was if you attempted to follow someone who had a private account, Instagram would be like, "Hey, I see that you tried to follow this person. Let me recommend to you a bunch of people that they follow.”


PJ: Got it—it’s like, you’re following like—if—if, if somebody followed like you and your wife, it would be like, “You should probably follow their kids, also.”  


ALEX: Right. So Ashley requests to follow James Comey’s son, and then Instagram immediately recommends a bunch of other accounts. Mostly people with the last name Comey. But there's one account that it recommends which has no profile picture, the account is locked, and it has the name “reinhold niebuhr.” And Ashley was like, “That’s a weird name.” And she looked it up, and apparently, James Comey did his thesis on this theologian named Reinhold Niebuhr. 


PJ: So then she’s like, “Okay this is-I’m pretty sure this is James Comey.” 


ALEX: Right. But then she starts wondering like, “Huh, I wonder if this is his username anywhere else.”  


ASHLEY: And then I searched on Twitter for that same name, and there were like three or four accounts that used that username, but only one of them that was faving tons and tons of tweets about the FBI and James Comey. [ALEX laughs]


ALEX: Long after she published the article, James Comey actually confirmed that the account was his which was very gratifying for Ashley.


ASHLEY: The interesting thing in that was just that the FBI Director hadn't performed like op sec well enough to cover his tracks on Twitter. 


ALEX: I mean how long did it take you? A couple days? A day?


ASHLEY: Uhh like a couple, I think it took me like four hours to like—


ALEX: Four hours?! 


ASHLEY: [overlapping] You know.


ALEX: To find the head of the FBI's secret Twitter account going on just the follower account and who he follows. Like, that's impressive. 


ASHLEY: Yeah, meeting that challenge was very satisfying. 


ALEX: So it was a pretty big deal when she found Comey’s secret accounts, but the downside was like, he wasn't tweeting anything, his Instagram was private. Um but Ashley's next catch was a little more rewarding. 


PJ: What happened?


ALEX: So, Mitt Romney was the subject of an article by McKay Coppins who writes for The Atlantic. 


PJ: Oh actually-I actually saw this Ashley catch— this one’s really good. 


ALEX: So this catch started with this McKay Coppins article that basically said like Mitt Romney is now sort of like, he’s like a bit of a rebel cuz he stands up to the Trump administration and is willing to sort of speak his mind.


PJ: Uh huh.


ALEX: But, and I read the article, I remember it, and I was just like, “Ho-hum. Fine." 


PJ: Yeah. 


ALEX: Fine, McKay, great article. But Ashley noticed something really valuable in that article that everybody else missed. So, at one point in the story, Romney tells McKay Coppins, just as like an aside, I have a secret Twitter account quote, “I won’t give you the name of it...I’m following 668 people.” 


PJ: Why do they always do this?!


ALEX:  “Swiping at his tablet, he recited some of the accounts he follows, including journalists, late-night comedians—”


PJ: Oh my god. 


ALEX: “And athletes.” And of course to Ashley this is all gold. This is like all valuable information. 


ASHLEY: Those things just seem like very obvious challenges to me when I read them. Partially I was mostly just shocked that McKay Coppins wasn’t basically following up with like a barrage of questions to Romney about what that account was and what he used it for basically. 


ALEX: So again, she was like, “Well I’m gonna go look through Mitt Romney’s family—”


PJ: Because probably Mitt Romney’s following family members on Twitter. 


ALEX: And his eldest granddaughter was being followed by an account that had—it followed about 700 people. 


PJ: Yeah. 


ALEX: And you may remember this...the name was, um, “Pierre Delecto”. 


PJ: [laughs] Why Pierre Delecto? 


ASHLEY: The thing is it, it sounds very much like a name Mitt Romney would choose as a fake name. And uh, one thing a bunch of people said or mentioned was that when he was like doing his missionary work, he was in France. And Pierre Delecto is just sort of like a semi-French way of saying “pure delight.” 


ALEX: And the thing about Pierre Delecto, is that he actually spends most of his time defending Mitt Romney. Like— there was this incident where Jennifer Rubin, who, who’s an opinion writer for the Washington Post, criticized Romney on Twitter and wrote quote, “Inside Romney’s Trump strategy, his strategy is non-confrontation verging on spinelessness.”  


ASHLEY: And Pierre Delecto responded, “Jennifer, you need to take a breath. Maybe 

you can then acknowledge the people who agree with you in large measure, even if not in every measure.”  


ALEX: I mean what’s funny about this is even though you can tell that he’s annoyed at being called spineless um, and even though he can say whatever he wants because it’s an anonymous account, he’s still kind of like, prim and proper. He’s not being like—


PJ: Yeah, he’s not like cursing. 


ALEX: He’s not cursing. 


PJ: Yeah.


ALEX: Um, and so Ashley reaches out to Romney, gets no response, and so she goes to publish the article. 


ASHLEY: I was a little worried about that one just cause I- I don't know, it seemed like I had had too good of luck so far that I was like sure that this one was gonna be wrong. 


ALEX: Mm-hmm. 


ASHLEY: But yeah, I mean, pretty quickly afterwards McKay apparently called up Romney and asked him if it was him.


ALEX: And Romney’s only comment was  “C’est moi.”


PJ: [laughs]


ASHLEY: ”C’est moi” is a genuinely cool response to give, like, which like, is very depressing for it to come from like Mitt Romney. But I mean, I guess, good for him.


ALEX: So in the wake of this, Ashley starts getting tons of tips from people who are like, "I think I've found the secret social media account of ‘Blank Politician’.” 


PJ: Oh like, I found like Marco Rubio's like uh, battle.net login or whatever?


ALEX: [laughs] That is so specific—but yeah, that kind of thing. 


PJ: Yeah. 


ALEX: Um, and one of those tips leads to what is like, my personal favorite of her investigations. 


PJ: Okay. 


ALEX: Um, she got a tip that said I think that one of this year’s Democratic presidential candidates has been writing and editing their own Wikipedia page for the last decade. Which like, one of Wikipedia’s foundational rules is don’t edit your own page. 


PJ: Yes, a frequently violated rule.


ALEX:  I mean, it’s not a high crime. It just comes off as really tacky. Anyway, so this tipper says to Ashley, “Hey, you should check out this particular Wikipedia editor, who goes by the username Streeling.”


PJ: Streeling.


ALEX: Yeah.

 

ASHLEY: This person had been basically making edits, and they were the creator of the original Pete Buttigieg Wikipedia page uhh, before he was even mayor and not someone that someone would probably think to create an account for unless they were either his biggest fan, or himself. 


ALEX: What was he before he was mayor?


ASHLEY: He was- he was running for treasurer, and someone- someone tried to create a page while he was running for treasurer in Indiana, and it got deleted cause he was not notable. And they put up a very respectable fight trying to prove that he was, in fact, notable. 


ALEX: But the Wikipedia editors are like sorry, no he’s not notable. But THEN — Pete Buttegieg etc. wins the South Bend mayoral race, so suddenly he’s notable. And so the next day, Streeling like springs into action. He adds Pete Buttigieg to a list of notable Rhodes Scholars. Six minutes after he does that, he creates a Wikipedia page for Pete Buttigieg that is just a heavily footnoted parade of every accomplishment he’s ever made in his short life. And then six minutes after that, he leaves a note for other Wikipedia editors saying like, “Hey, I know that this page might read a little bit like a resume, uh, I just want to let everybody know that I’m not affiliated with the campaign.” It’s like the disclaimer of a person who is definitely involved in the campaign. [laughs]


PJ: I am not a cop. I am not an officer of the law, but I would like to buy a quantity of drugs from you. Illegal ones, please.  


ALEX: And THEN, Streeling adds Pete Buttegieg to the Wikipedia page for notable Buttigiegs. [laughs]


PJ: There’s a Wikipedia page of notable Buttigiegs?


ALEX: There are five. 


PJ: Who are the others?


ALEX: Uh, let’s see. Uh, Buttigieg. It’s a Maltese surname. Um, oh, there’s more now. 

There's one, two, three, four, five, six...


PJ: There's no notable Vogts. 


ALEX: There’s eleven, wow. It’s mostly Maltese and Australian politicians and Pete Buttigieg. 


PJ: I don’t know what I was expecting.

 

ALEX: [laughs] Uh, anyway, at this point Ashley is investigating Streeling, this editor, and she thinks like, it is very much within the realm of possibility that this, that this was all done by just someone who was a big fan of Pete Buttigieg, but there’s some edits that are made by Streeling that feel so specific and personal to Pete Buttigieg they at least had to come from somebody close to him.


PJ: Ok.


ALEX: Like, he edited the page for this musician named David Wax. But Ashley was digging around and she realized like, “Oh, David Wax? He just happens to be one of Pete Buttigieg’s best friends and played at his wedding.”


PJ: Ok, that’s more suspicious.



ALEX: And it turns out that the screenname that this person's using to edit on Wikipedia, the name Streeling, that itself is a clue.  


ALEX: Can you explain the significance of the username Streeling?


ASHLEY: So, yeah. I mean, at first like I couldn’t figure out what it was. And then, uhh if you like Google “streeling,” there’s like a bunch of old Irish poetry sort of comes up. And, uh, I think the word “streel” is used—yeah, is used in Ulysses to refer to a woman in one of the episodes.   


ALEX: And like Pete Buttigieg says that Ulysses is one of his favorite books of all time. which Ashley thinks is just another point in the “oh, it’s definitely an inside job” column. And so Ashley actually went to the Pete Buttigieg campaign with all of this evidence and said like, “Hey is someone on your campaign doing this?" And they were like, “Uh, we don't know what you're talking about. Streeling, whoever that is, is not connected to our campaign in any way. 


ASHLEY: Honestly like, it- I don't think that if he had just acknowledged that it was him or that it was a staffer he had instructed to do this, like I don't even know that I would have necessarily published it because I don't really- it's not—it wasn't that interesting, like the things he was doing. Like the really interesting thing to me was that he denied it. And like, I feel like that was like, more revealing than anything else was on the page. 


ALEX: It’s not the crime. It's the cover-up. 


ASHLEY: Yeah.


ALEX: [laughs]


ALEX: But the thing that made this denial seem even less credible to me was that Ashley found what to me seemed a lot like a smoking gun.


PJ: What was the smoking gun?


ALEX: It, it’s this little bread crumb that had been dropped way back when Pete Buttigieg was mayor, and it’s this photo that someone tried to upload to the Wikipedia page. And it’s just a typical politician headshot of Pete Buttigieg.


PJ: Ok.


ALEX: So, the other Wikipedia editors actually deleted this picture because they said, they said, “We don’t have explicit permission from the person who holds the copyright on this picture to use it on his page, so we can’t use it.” 


ASHLEY: But there are these mirror sites that will basically just crawl Wikipedia or whatever website they're a mirror of and like, pick up the content that is added to it. And uh they don't get everything, but there was one that had like, miraculously saved the whole file and so all the original metadata was on it. 


ALEX: She downloads the picture. 


PJ: Yes. 


ALEX: Looks at the metadata of the picture—


PJ: Ohh.


ALEX: And it contains all of the information about like, the camera that took it. Meaning like it’s not a copy. It’s not a compressed picture. 


PJ: It’s the original. 


ALEX: It’s the original photo. And there, in the metadata of the photo it actually says the name of the photographer.


ASHLEY: And uh, then I contacted the photographer who told me that he had only given the login password to download it to the campaign. And so like, there's no other like way that someone could have gotten it unless they had gotten it directly from the campaign. 



PJ: So, if it’s not associated with the campaign, we need to believe in a world where the world’s biggest Pete Buttigieg fan...


ALEX: Uh, totally Watergated their offices, stole a headshot.


PJ: [laughs] Like they've, they’ve broken in and gone completely rogue, but only in order to update his Wikipedia page. 


ALEX: Yeah. 


PJ: Oh my god.


ALEX: [laughs]


PJ: It’s so weird. 


ALEX: To me, like it gives the feeling of like—it feels different than Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney was like a person like, trying to let his hair down a bit. 


PJ: Yeah, that’s the other thing. You have a little more sympathy for the guy who’s like, “I just want to be able to yell at people sometimes in a very polite way,” than the guy who’s like, “I, or a close associate, put myself on the notable Rhodes Scholar list, and now I won’t admit it.” 


ALEX: It’s just like, if it is Pete, or someone on his campaign, in this particular attempt to control how he appears to the public, like he’s inadvertently said something kind of unflattering about himself. Like I don’t know, that he’s kind of a try hard. 


PJ: Yeah. 


ALEX: I should say that we reached out to the Pete Buttigieg campaign for comment, and they continually denied that he or his campaign have anything to do with this Wikipedia account. 


ALEX: In your ultimate deepest dreams, who do you hope to find and like, what do you hope to find? 


ASHLEY: Uhh I would love to find uh Donald Jr. stealing valour, which is like... 


ALEX: Um, stealing valour means pretending to be in the military, or a former, or a veteran when he's actually not.  


ASHLEY: Yeah. It’s the single greatest conservative crime you can commit—


ALEX: Right.


ASHLEY: On that side of the world. But, not even that anymore. I honestly don't know. Like the thing is like, the more it goes kind of the more attracted I am to like the stupider smaller stuff, just because—yeah, it just seems like those are getting harder to find, I think. But... 


ALEX: Why do you think they’re getting harder to find?


ASHLEY: I think people are more careful in general and sort of just a lot more aware of the photos they’re posting of themselves and like, what is in the background of the photos they’re posting of themselves. Like, one thing I really enjoy is when a politician or any prominent person posts a photo of their computer screen sort of by accident, and you can see like the tabs and like the windows that are hiding in plain sight, but that doesn't happen that often anymore, I feel like.


ALEX: Right, 


ASHLEY: Th-those are like the single greatest things that can happen and like they’re getting rarer and rarer, which like terrifies me. 


ALEX: [laughs] Um would it help for our listeners to send you tips?


ASHLEY: Yeah, I mean, if—I love all sorts of tips even if they suck. 


ALEX: Sounds good. 


ASHLEY: Yeah. 



ALEX: If you suspect you’ve found Jimmy Carter’s Photobucket or whatever, you can send a tip to Ashley Feinberg at ashley@slate.com. 


[SPOOKY REPLY ALL INTRO]


PJ VOGT: Welcome back to the show. Ok so, Alex.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah. 


PJ: Something that I think people don’t totally realize is that kind of like for every story that we air on the show, usually there are a bunch that we’ve pursued that just didn’t work out.


ALEX: Mhm.


PJ: And usually we don’t talk about those stories because there’s always this like slim hope that somehow we’ll find a way to make those stories work? But, today I wanted to make an exception to that very reasonable rule. 


ALEX: [sighs] Okay.


PJ: I want to talk about last year’s big failure.


BOTH: [laugh] 


ALEX: [laughing] Oh noo....


PJ: I mean, it’s not your fault. I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. 


ALEX: No, I feel like it’s my fault... 


PJ: I don’t blame you for what happened.


ALEX: Ok.


PJ: But what did happen was, actually, rather than just re-explaining the premise, let me just play what we recorded back then. Um so what you’re about to hear is from May of 2019.


PJ: Ok, so Alex.


ALEX: Yeah?


PJ: Do you remember the movie “Get Out”?


ALEX: Uh, yeah. We didn’t see it together, did we?


PJ: No, we did not see it together. 


ALEX: Ok.


PJ: So I didn’t see it. And it was very frustrating for me to not see it because it was like, you know when there's those things that like everyone sees and everybody talks about, and it becomes almost like the dominant metaphor in everyone's brain afterwards?


ALEX: It was zeitgeist-y.


PJ: It was zeitgeist-y, and I like seeing zeitgeist-y things, like I like participating in culture and like figuring out what people like and why and figuring out how I feel about it, and I completely completely completely did not watch Get Out.


ALEX: Mhm.


PJ: You know why. 


ALEX: Well, I've, I’ve seen two movies with you I think—


PJ: Uh huh.


ALEX: In the time that we've known each other. 


PJ: Uh huh.


ALEX: One was Attack the Block. 


PJ: Yes.


ALEX: Which for people who don't know, is an alien invasion set in the housing projects of London.


PJ: Very good movie.


ALEX: Very good movie. And Drive which is Ryan Gosling—


PJ: [laughing] I forgot we saw Drive.


ALEX: Driving around and falling in love and stomping heads.


PJ: Okay movie.


ALEX: And during both of those movies—


PJ: Mhm.


ALEX: You were in the fetal position.


PJ: Fetal position I think is a slight over-uhhhh uhhh...


ALEX: You had your knees up to your chest—


PJ: I guess that's kind of a fetal position.


ALEX: With your fingers fanned out in front of your eyes doing what my mom does when I drive which is going “Ouhh.”


PJ: [overlapping laugh]


ALEX: [overlapping] “Ouhhh ouhhh ahhh ouhh.”


PJ: That's more or less true, and these are not like super scary movies.


ALEX: No, Attack the Block is like a, is like a caper.


PJ: Yeah. And Drive, I don’t know—


ALEX: [overlapping] Drive—


PJ: [overlapping] Drive, it's tense.


ALEX: [overlapping] Drive is like a pretty bloody drama. Neither of them are scary.


PJ: So I'm an adult man that can't watch scary movies, like at all, like I am terrified of them, I derive like no pleasure from them and like even movies that are sort of scary adjacent, uhh, it's tough for me to watch.


ALEX: Why?


PJ: I think some people enjoy them and some people don’t and I super don’t enjoy them, And I always remember not enjoying them. Not just being scared by scary movies but being like scared of seeing scary movies… Like one of the earliest memories I have, you remember the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids?


ALEX: [laughs] Yes.


PJ: Yeah, so what happened was— I think this was the first movie I went to go see with my dad, I was like four, and we got to the theater, we sit down in our seats, trailer—first experience of movie trailers—comes on for Edward Scissorhands? 


ALEX: And you were out of there.


PJ: I was terrified. I left the theater. I think I was crying in the lobby. My dad was like, pretty frustrated because like he'd gone to take his kid to a movie, and his kid was doing like a walk-out, and I refused to go back in. And he was like, “It's a trailer, it's not part of the movie. Edward Scissorhands will not appear in this like Rick Moranis family caper?” But at that point I remember that in the trailer there's a giant ant cuz they get shrunk, and I was like, “I, no, I don't wanna see this, it's got a giant ant, it's too scary for me.”


ALEX: Wow.


PJ: It's like my earliest memory of like truly like my dad realizing that he had raised a weak son and like feeling embarrassed about it, and I don't think he took me to a movie for a very long time after that. So basically like my whole life, it's been this like wide path of culture that I've had to avoid, and it's very frustrating, and it's been more frustrating because of Get Out and then, what's the new one? 


ALEX: Us?


PJ: Us. Like it just feels like—th-like for awhile I was just like who cares cuz scary movies are, not that they're dumb, but like I can miss them, and I'm not missing much, and if it's really scary, I'll like read the Wikipedia entry and read the plot summary and just like have a nightmare from that, but it's fine, but lik-


ALEX: You have nightmares from Wikipedia entries?


PJ: I have had nightmares from Wikipedia entries.


ALEX: For what?


PJ: That movie with the scary goat. And the witches.


ALEX: Oh, you mean The Witch? 


PJ: Yeah. yeah. I got one from that. Anyway, last year I got really frustrated about the Get Out stuff, and I wanted to-I started thinking about whether I could change? Whether I could be different? [ALEX: mhm] 


And I read this article by Choire Sicha who is also, who's a writer but who also is scared of scary movies? And he found this professor who had studied this, like both why people like scary movies, why they don't, and how to start liking them if you want to. 


The thing he said that was like really surprising to me was that he was like, you can— you can change, like it's just basically like exposure therapy, like the same way some people are scared to fly on airplanes, so they like make them sit on a fake airplane and pretend to take off? If you watch scary movies, over time you can go from a person who hates them to a person who enjoys them.


ALEX: Hmm.


PJ: So I wanted to talk to that guy? He died. 


ALEX: Alright. 


PJ: But like, I wanted to start to make myself a syllabus of like, starting at very unscary movies, like starting at like 1920s like black and white like Frankenstein movies or whatever and then maybe moving up to like cheesy, uh, like really really cheesy schlocky movies that aren't gonna scare me and like see if I can just like in a very cowardly way like inch into the pool to get to a place where I could just go see like Get Out or Us like in a movie theater. Cuz right now the only way I can watch even kinda scary movies is I watch them on my laptop in a small window during the day, so I can like tab away from it if it's too scary.


ALEX: So my understanding is that exposure therapy is like, is like exposing you to things that you are scared of on the understanding that it will be safe.


PJ: Is that true?


ALEX: Yeah, like on the understanding that you will be there with, that—that there is not— you are—no harm is going to come to you.


PJ: Huh.


ALEX: I have a question for you.


PJ: Ok.


ALEX: So I'm wondering if—if I can be the doctor who guides you through your exposure therapy.


PJ: Dr. Goldman, the spooky therapist?


ALEX: Yeah.


PJ: Hmm.


ALEX: [laughs] I promise no harm will come to you.


PJ: What do you mean when you say no harm?


ALEX: You won't be injured.


PJ: [sighs] Ok.


ALEX: I think I can make it happen.


PJ: You can scare me into okayness?


ALEX: I can scare you into not being scared at Get Out.


PJ: Ok, if I can just watch Get Out and enjoy it, that would be like a—a thing.


ALEX: Alright.


PJ: I'm gonna regret this. I can already feel the regret.


PJ: Ok. So that was last May, and at the time, the plan basically made sense. You know, you love horror movies, and so the idea was you would take your love of horror movies and create like a terror exposure program for me.


ALEX: It was very scientific.


PJ: It was very elaborate is what I would say. Very quickly it left the realm of just watching scary movies and it turned into you creating scary experiences that were very bizarre. 


ALEX: [laughs]


PJ: There was like- we were handcuffed together at one point. There was fake blood there was spooky nighttime excursions in the woods but none of it worked. 


ALEX: Yeah.


PJ: I think the thing we realized though is like, basically the problem is that as long as it's like Dr. Alex administering the experiment, it never felt like anything could happen. 


ALEX: It never left the realm of just being like you hanging out with a friend. 


PJ: Yeah exactly. So the reason we’re talking about this, is we had the idea recently of like “Oh, our listeners could have access to some kind of spooky locale.” Like, if we know somebody who is the landlord to like a notorious murder house or uh, you know, lives in an abandoned penitentiary—


ALEX: Or like if the crypt keeper listens to this.


PJ: I’m sure he’s a huge fan. Um. Don’t do a crypt keeper impression.


ALEX: [laughs]


PJ: I know that you mentioned that only to do that.


ALEX: REPLY SCOWL! [laughs] HELLO KIDDIES! [laughs] I love the crypt keeper so much. [laughs]


PJ: Crypt keeper, if you’re out there, Alex Goldman loves you. Anyway, we, we wanted to broadcast this to basically ask our listeners, if you have access to a very scary experience or place or whatever like if you’re the spookiest haunted house in the whole world, please get in touch with us [ALEX: Can I tell-?] because we wanna try and do this again


ALEX: Can I tell you the one location that didn’t work out which I really wanted to work out so badly when we were trying to come up with a scary place?


PJ: Yeah.


ALEX: There is a, an island in the middle of — it’s I think it’s in the bay just north of Brooklyn— and there’s a lighthouse on it and apparently before the revolutionary war, the British would take their colonial prisoners there and lash them to the rocks and let the tide drown them.


PJ: Oh my god.


ALEX: And they let you sleep there. And I was like I really wanna go do this cuz it sounds horrifying—


PJ: That sounds horrifying.


ALEX: Like you’re trapped on an island in a lighthouse.


PJ: Why didn’t we do that?


ALEX: Because I called the guy, and the guy was like “Yeah I’m gonna be there, and there’s probably gonna be other people there too” and I was like “Well can we just do it ourselves? Like you can just drop us off there?” And he was like “No”, and I was like “Well is there— I’m trying to scare my friend” and he was like “No.” [PJ: Wow] “Uhn-uhn. Nope.”


PJ: So if you are out there listening, and you have access to your own spooky lighthouse, or you’re the crypt keeper or whatever, send us an email, replyall@gimletmedia.com, subject line “spooky times.” And if we can find a successful or a series of successful scary experiences, [sigh] we’ll try again.


Reply All is hosted by me, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. We’re produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, Damiano Marchetti, Anna Foley, Jessica Yung and Emmanuel Dzotsi. Our executive producer is Tim Howard. We’re mixed by Rick Kwan. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Our intern is Lisa Wang. 


Our theme song is by the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder, the theme for Deep Dive was composed by the multitalented Alex Goldman. Additional music help from Mari Romano. Matt Lieber is a long walk with a good friend. Also if you're interested, we have just opened up the listing for our summer and fall internship positions. If you’re interested, you can find a link for more information in the show notes. You can listen to the show on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.