The Gripes of Wraith

By Ralph Ewggleigh
©1989 By The Church of Tina Chopp

     About eight years ago, I was listening to religious fanatics on the radio. I came across this one show, which I have since listened to on and off called "Talkback with Bob Larson.

     Bob typifies the kind of evangelical stupidity that I have come to abhor so vehemently in this type of person: he makes categorically incorrect statements on subjects about which he knows nothing, and makes them in such a way so as to convince his audience that he is an authority on every subject. The primary target for these ridiculous statements were (and still are, unfortunately), any person foolish enough to disagree with what he says and tenacious enough to call his toll-free phone number. His number is 1-800-821-TALK, and the show is between 1:00 and 3:00 pacific time. If you call about 12:30 and let the phone ring, then convince the screener you have something to say about the topic (which they frequently don't announce ahead of time) you can get on the show just about every time.

     Bob's absolute favorite topic is that of the "occult," which he defines as anything that is not specifically mentioned in the bible. These include anything from Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses to Satanism, Witchcraft and beyond. Naturally, I called him, told him that I was witch (I wasn't), and that I thought he was full of crap. I very quickly became a major thorn in his side and at the same time, a major publicity ploy for Bob's then burgeoning ministry outreach. At the time, he was doing nationwide rallies, going to different areas and having live shows from rented auditoria. When he came to my area, he played up the rally a lot and invited me and my "coven" to join him for an evening of debauchery. Naturally, since I wasn't a real witch, I couldn't come up with a coven, but I did dress strangely and say bizarre things. I made a great hit, Bob's ratings skyrocketed and I became one of his favorite weirdos. He was never able to understand what I was saying except that I disagreed with him.

     The years passed and Bob stopped doing rallies except on the rare occasion, his excuse being that the cost of satellite transmission was precluding the ability to meet the costs of travelling and rallies. However, he does do the occasional rally, one of which was in Vancouver, B.C. at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Naturally I was invited, since I lived a mere 2 hour drive from Vancouver at the time. I hadn't talked to Bob in about 6 months. I called him up from a pay phone booth in Seattle and before I knew it he had offered to pay for my gas and take me out to dinner if I came to his Vancouver rally. How could I have refused?

     I invited many strange people, none of whom were real witches, but people I knew would enjoy the challenge of convincing thousands of religious fanatics that we were. Initially the response was very positive, however as the rally date grew near, most of my strange friends chickened out for one reason or another. In the end, the "coven" consisted of myself, my sister "Spectre" and my friend Osiris Ranebo. We had a gathering to discuss what we would do, wear and say when we arrived; how we would deal with the possible negative situations that we might find ourselves in; the logistics of negotiating the border and suchlike.

     Finally the day arrived. I spiritually purified myself by remaining silent for the entire day before the rally, saving up all my vocalisms for the big night. We drove to Vancouver and arrived about two hours before the rally was to begin. We found a convenient place in Stanley Park to don our costumes and complete our makeup; make final decisions about what each of us as individuals were going to say and so forth, then we drove to the theatre and parked.

     There weren't too many people there, and the doors had not been unlocked when we arrived, so we just stood outside the glass doors to the entrance hallway staring at the flunkies running around preparing for the conflagration inside. We had been standing there for about 20 minutes when I noticed that there was a fairly large crowd of people; christians, which had gathered behind us. They weren't pressed up against us like they were against each other however. In fact, unlike many crowds that I have both seen and been in, this crowd left a radius of clear space around us about 10 feet wide. The christians were packed in like sardines but they didn't even want to get close to the witches. We were not witches, we looked like what they thought witches should look like, but we were not witches.

     Finally the doors opened and, of course, we got in first because nobody wanted to push in ahead of the witches. We looked around for someone in authority, because we really didn't want to be just another ordinary part of this rally. In fact we had come to realize that we really didn't want to be at a christian rally at all, we just wanted to spook these people and if we had to sit through the whole thing as if we were just another part of the audience, then we would have preferred to collect our money and go, forget about dinner. Unfortunately, most of the christians didn't seem to know what was going on any more than we did, so we sat on a stone bench in the foyer and waited.

     As the christians were filing in to see their plastic hero, I began to notice that there were as many people staring at us with fear and disgust as there were people who were completely ignoring us. We didn't fit into their world at all, so they were going to edit us out or be afraid of us. On several occasions children reacted to us in interesting ways; either by shrieking with fear and hiding behind their parents, or by laughing and pointing and then being dragged away by fearful parents to safety.

     At last people started coming over to us. We thought that they might be part of Bob's entourage, but these were ordinary rally-goers who wanted to know why were here, did we know that jesus died for our sins, etcetera.

     The the crowd started to get ugly. There were many people who were incensed by the fact that we had the audacity to confront their holy man in such an outrageous fashion. Voices raised, fists were shaken, and I began to think about beating a hasty escape and even forgetting about the gas money, when suddenly someone at the back of the crowd started shoving towards us and telling the others to lay off. Reluctantly the crowd relented and we were left in the clutches of Shirley, a member of Bob's entourage who spoke with a British accent and assured us that she had been a witch in the past, but that she was all better now because of Bob and Jesus (how strangely coincidental that his name is "Bob"). She took us under her wing (claw?) and hustled us inside the auditorium, which is not what we wanted to do because at that very moment someone began howling into a microphone (I think that they were actually supposed to be singing but I couldn't tell, I have been a musician all my life, and I have never heard anything worse that has actually been called music. Occasionally I have heard worse on construction sites, but this definitely was not music.). Shirley, of course, was entranced and asked us how we liked the music, and, of course, couldn't understand when we said that we hated it and would prefer to wait outside.

     Then the rally began for real. Bob came on stage with an FM broadcast microphone (the wireless kind), and started roaming around through the audience answering peoples' questions about punk rock, Boy George, satan and drugs. Bob, in his usual style, was making all kinds of authoritative statements about Boy George's sexuality (as if Bob sleeps with Boy George on a regular basis), and even more off the wall statements about drugs. Then he found us.

     Osiris had decided that he was going to remain silent for the most part. He was dressed in a voluminous green robe with a hood that covered his face. Bob hardly noticed him in the darkness of the theatre, and besides, Spectre and I were doing most of the talking anyway. Osiris decided not to talk with Bob that time, so Spectre and I were escorted to the front of the auditorium so that all the christians could see us. Bob said (to the audience) that he was sure that I do "evil things" all the time, as if he spends a lot of time watching my actions. I was carrying a black bound new testament, which Bob initially thought wa some sort of satanic text. He was completely taken aback when he found out that it wasn't. He just couldn't understand how I could possibly say that he was wrong so often if I read the bible as much as I said I did. In fact, I still do read the new testament, and I still find that about 98% of it disagrees with what Bob says, but that was one of the reasons that I was there. So I had fun with Bob and pointed out to him that if his "god" is so terrible then why were so many of Bob's followers afraid of us.


     The Gripes of Wraith, by Ralph Ewggleigh, is a book which chronicles the interactions between Mr. Ewggleigh and Bob Larson. Look for updates when we get the time.

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