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Jeff Emtman

Jeff Emtman is Host of Here Be Monsters, KCRW ​'s podcast about everything Jeff fears. He's an artist creating true stories about belief and fear.
Recent episodes featuring Jeff Emtman
HBM124: Banana Softies
Here Be Monsters
“Gene” says it started because he wanted to be a veterinarian. So he took a job as a research associate at a vivarium that studied cancer drugs. He was often alone in the lab at night with hundreds or thousands of research animals around him.  The monkeys were his favorite, especially the rhesus macaques. He loved to give them treats, play movies and Celine Dion for them. And sometimes he’d lean up against the cages to let his monkey friends groom him. He knew the work would be hard, but he believed his  was justified because the primate research helped people in the long run. In his two years at the lab, Gene radiated a lot of monkeys.  He and his colleagues studied the deteriorating effects of radiation and the side effects of experimental cancer drugs seeking FDA approval. Once a monkey became too sick and lethargic, it was Gene’s job to euthanize them. He would hold them as they died and tell them he was sorry.  After one study with a particularly high radiation doses, Gene found himself alone again in a lab late at night, euthanizing more monkeys and thinking to himself, “Those were my friends... Those were my fucking friends.” These words became the screamed lyrics to the unfinished, unpublished song that Gene performs in this episode. Gene left the job shortly after writing the song, but he still works in medical research. He no longer performs euthanizations.  Gene says that the monkeys enjoyed watching this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.  An island in South Carolina where rhesus macaques are bred for scientific study
HBM123: Water Witches
Here Be Monsters
Some time in the 90’s, Kathy Emtman received a gift from her husband, Rick. It was a pair of bent metal rods, each shaped into long ‘L’. Nothing special, not imparted with any kind of magic, just metal rods. Colloquially, these rods are called “witching rods” or “dowsing rods”.  HBM producer Jeff Emtman (child of Rick and Kathy) remembers a scene that took place the night of that gifting: each family member taking turns holding the rods, testing who had the gift of water witching. Each person held the rods by their short end with the long ends waving around in front of them. Gripped loosely enough, the rods spin freely, seemingly with a life of their own.  And believers say that when the rods cross, that’s where there’s water underground. That is...if a true witch is holding the rods. Who’s a water witch? Well it depends who you ask. Some say that the gift is rare, some say that it’s in nearly all of us. It’s a folk belief, one not canonized in any central text and one not well supported by science. However, it persists (strongly in some places) as a regular thing for people to do when they need a well dug—cited as a way to gather a second opinion before paying a well driller to dig on their property.  And this desire for a second opinion seems quite understandable. Wells in the Palouse Region of Eastern Washington State (where Jeff grew up) often require digging hundreds of feet to find water of sufficient quality and quantity to sustain a family or a farm. These wells might cost $10,000 to $30,000 each. Further, the well drillers charge per hole dug, regardless of whether there’s water down there. So, picking the right spot is paramount. Well driller Brett Uhlenkott calls water witching a “farce”, preferring to drill based on his understanding of the landscape, his readings of the geologic maps and his knowledge of nearby successful wells. But he’s had clients who request he drill in a spot a witch found. And if that’s what his client wants, then that’s where he drills.  Brett says there’s no mechanism for any information to travel the great distance between a witcher’s rods and a tiny vein of groundwater that runs hundreds of feet below the surface. Despite this, Brett keeps a pair of rods himself, saying that it might work for things closer to the surface. He cites an instance where he was able to locate a pipe or cable located several feet underground using the rods.  Brett thinks it might have something to do with minerals, or that it might just be something that we imagine in our heads. The mechanism most often cited for the seemingly organic movements of a witcher’s rods is so-called ideomotor movement, which is the same thing that makes Ouija boards work.  Simply put, these motions are the result of unconscious movements we make when we feel something should work.  With witching, these motions get amplified by the long rods, resulting in movement that seems to emerge from nothing.   Attempts to prove the validity of witching exist. Proponents cite a study by Hans-Dieter Betz that claimed incredible success rate in witched wells in countries with dry climates.  This paper received criticism for its unusual methodology.  Betz published another paper on water witching in a controlled environment, where he found a select few people who he claimed could reliably witch water, however that study also received criticism for its method of data analysis.   Back in the 90’s.  Jeff held the rods, and he was able to find the pipes in the house, the sprinkler lines in the yard.  The rods moved convincingly, crossing where they were supposed to, uncrossing where they weren’t.  In this episode of Here Be Monsters, Jeff revisits his hometown, debates the merits of black-box thinking with his parents (Rick and Kathy Emtman), talks with his grandma (Peggy Emtman) about the desire to have a talent she can’t have, interviews three farmers and a former farmhand (Ian Clark, Asa Clark, Ron Libbey and Owen Prout) about their experiences with witching, and asks his parents’ pastor (Wes Howell of Trinity Lutheran Church) to explain the origin of the term “hocus pocus”. Others who helped with this episode include Lindsay Myron, Nick Long-Rinehart, Brandon Libbey, Mary Clark, Joe Hein, and Kirsten O’Brien. Owen Prout and Ian Clark look for metal rods suitable to turn into witching rods at Clark Farms outside of Albion, Washington. Owen Prout bends a metal rod to make it into the “L” shape of a witching rod.  Pastor Wes Howell of Trinity Lutheran Church in Pullman, Washington.  A drilling rig used by Brett Uhlenkott Well Drilling.   When the boom arm is up, it is approximately 30 feet tall.  Well digging on a currently vacant lot outside of Winchester, Idaho.  Brett Uhlenkott estimates this well will cost his client about $9000.  Farmer and amatuer water witch Ron Libbey.  Ian Clark demos the characteristic crossing that happens when a witcher stands over water.  Brandon Libbey (Ron LIbbey’s grandson) is not a water witch.  Ron Libbey holds his grandson’s elbow saying that sometimes the skill can be transferred to another person temporarily if there’s physical contact.  Kathy Emtman, Rick Emtman and a formerly stray cat named Bert in the field behind their house, looking for the pipe of a geothermal line.  Kathy Emtman holding a the witching rods that her husband made for her in the nineties.  The Emtman’s witching rods, which normally hang on a nail in the basement.  Smoot Hill, near Albion, Washington.  A proposed scientific mechanism for water witching.  
HBM122: Should Cows Have Names?
Here Be Monsters
Mike Paros lives in two worlds. In one world, he’s an animal welfare specialist and mixed animal vet, meaning he works with both “companion” animals like cats and dogs, and large animals like horses, cows, goats, and sheep. He spends much of his time as a veterinarian working with animals that eventually become meat, and most of his human clients are farmers that lean right politically. In the other world, Mike is a college professor at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. There he teaches anthrozoology and agriculture to a predominantly liberal student body -- lots of vegans and anarchists. Crossing back and forth between these two worlds invites Mike to have many discussions about how to ethically treat animals, within and outside of the meat industry. Producer Bethany Denton spent a day shadowing Mike as he disbuds and castrates dairy calves, and she asks him whether he thinks meat can be eaten ethically. Bethany interviewed Mike in 2018 about a class he was teaching called “Liberal Education in the College Bubble: Crossing the Political and Cultural Divide.” You can listen to that story here. Iris, the “pretty little heifer” just after being disbudded. Thurston County, Washington. Photo by Bethany Denton. Dairy cows in stanchions waiting to be examined. Thurston County, Washington. Photo by Bethany Denton.
HBM121: True North
Here Be Monsters
Angels saved Here Be Monsters’ host Jeff Emtman once.  They picked him up and took care of him after a bad bike crash.  It was just one of many times that Jeff felt watched over by God. Jeff used to think he might be a pastor someday.  And so, as a teenager, he made an active effort to orient his thoughts and deeds towards what God wanted.  In this episode, Jeff tells four short stories about faith (and the lack thereof) through the metaphor of declination, or the distance in angle between the unmovable true north, and the ever shifting magnetic north.   We have new stickers, commissioned from the incredible artist Violet Reed.  Get your HBM Can O’ Worms sticker at our store. A 180 degree panorama in the middle of Holden Village, where Jeff spent his Junior year of high school.  Trees discussed on the episode are pictured far left.   Fields of wheat near Jeff’s childhood home. Summer stars in the field behind Jeff’s childhood home. A country highway near Jeff’s childhood home. Meadow in the North Cascades near Holden Village.  Jeff in the mountains near Holden Village several years after he attended high school there. Spider Gap, a high mountain pass near Holden Village in the North Cascades. 
Season 8 = October 2
Here Be Monsters
KCRW’s Podcast about the unknown is back! Season 8 begins October 2nd, 2019.  Subscribe to Here Be Monsters for unusual audio documentaries about water divination, animal husbandry, seeing auras, deep sea exploration, and plenty more.  New episodes every other Wednesday.  More about the show at
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Providence, RI, USA
Episode Count
Podcast Count
Total Airtime
2 days, 19 hours