An Interview with Fred Phelp’s Son Nathan
Westboro Baptist Church founder and world-famous bastard Fred Phelps died last week — and it doesn’t look like he’ll be missed even by a large part of his large family (he had 13 children and 54 grandchildren), who still make up a large part of what remains of the WBC.
So far, more than 20 members of the Phelps family have left the church due to his behavior and WBC’s practices. One of them is Nathan Phelps, who left the Kansas family house at 18, accusing his father of, among other things, child abuse. Having completely denounced the WBC dogma, Nathan now lives in Canada, calls himself an atheist, and is an avid supporter of LGBT rights. He has also spent the past few years giving speeches and interviews about his experience as a member of WBC.
Back in 2012, I had the honor of having Nate stay as a guest in my house for a few days. Once I heard about his father’s death, and with the Facebook announcement Nate made about it in mind, I got in touch with him again.
VICE: Hey Nate, how do you feel about your dad dying?
Nathan Phelps: I haven’t seen my father in over 35 years. I spoke to him once, briefly, in 1995. Ten years after I left home, I went through a deliberate mourning process for the loss of my family. Between that and the passage of time, I believed I would have no feelings when he passed. I was surprised that there were feelings when I learned of his condition and then his death. I’ve now had a few days to consider those feelings, and I think the sadness is over what might have been.
When you revealed that your father was dying a few days ago, you said family members that left the church were being blocked from seeing him. If you had been able to, would you have wanted to see him one last time in person?
In a perfect world, I would have jumped at that chance. I left that place 37 years ago as a fearful young man. The absence of interaction, an opportunity to process that, only means I still have that fear to contend with. If there were the least bit of evidence that our relationship had changed in his eyes, I would be there in a heartbeat. Other than that, my greatest concern was for my family members who had expressed a desire to see him and were being denied that opportunity.
“It was like a David Lynch movie through the prism of Satan’s asshole. The anti-Galápagos. Darwin in reverse.”
Watch Snake Island, Part Two
"Place is fucked. No one is allowed there for a reason. Don’t ever go."
We went to Snake Island
"Place is fucked. No one is allowed there for a reason. Don’t ever go."
We went to Snake Island, which is exactly what it sounds like: An island off the coast of Brazil that’s full of deadly snakes who can “liquefy your insides” with one bite.
Watch Snake Island, Part 1
Death’s Messenger: One Soldier’s Job Delivering the Worst News Imaginable
“There’s still a war going on,” Captain Richard Siemion began. “There are still people dying—not as many as before—but it’s still happening. And when it does, the Army sends somebody like me to break the news.”
Captain Siemion was recently honorably discharged but was one of several casualty notification officers serving in upstate New York. Whenever a soldier’s death was reported, the CNO on duty would have four hours to track down the deceased’s family and deliver some of the worst news they would ever hear.
CNOs have been the focus of some interest over the last decade of American war. In 2006, the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News published a Pulitzer Prize–winning series about the Marines tasked with the same job as Captain Siemion, and in 2009 Woody Harrelson starred in the independent film The Messenger. He played a CNO.
I sat down with the 31-year-old Siemion to talk about his first-hand experience telling families of active-service soldiers that their loved one have died in action.
VICE: Did you volunteer for the job?
Captain Siemon: We call it being voluntold. I had just gotten back from my first tour in Afghanistan when my Battalion Commander sent me to the training course.
What did you learn there?
You learn that there’s no right way to tell someone that their loved one is not returning from war, but there are a lot of wrong ways to do it. If you look at history, the way they used to tell families about a death: You had telegrams, you had taxi drivers paid to ring doorbells, you had word of mouth. Through trial and error, the United States Army got it as close to right as they can. I was always the kind of leader who didn’t go 100 percent by the book, but in this case, I went right by the book, because there is a reason why they have it the way they do. Not much room for creativity.
What do you think they got right?
One thing is the idea that no job is more important than this job. So, if you’re in the middle of an important brief with a Colonel and you get called to give a notification, you say, “Gotta go.” Another thing is that you go in person. It shows the importance. Obviously you’re never going to see that individual again, or be their best friend, but if my brother died, I’d rather have it straight—face-to-face.
The Leader of the Satanic Temple Weighs In on Fred Phelps’s Impending Death
Yesterday Nathan Phelps, the son of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps,posted a note on Facebook claiming that his father is “on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.” He also mentioned that Fred was excommunicated from the church in August of last year, but didn’t give any details as to why. Although the information at this point is sparse and unofficial, Westboro spokesman and Radiohead fanboy Steve Drain told the Daily News ”Fred Phelps is having some health problems. He’s an old man and old people get health problems.”
In celebration of the icy hand of death caressing Fred’s gross old body, we reached out to Lucien Greaves, the founder of the Satanic Temple, who last summer performed a "Pink Mass" over the grave of Fred’s mother in order to turn her into a lesbian in the afterlife. When we spoke to him then he told us, “Fred himself is getting pretty long in the tooth, and I hope to be presiding over his Pink Mass before long,” so yesterday we asked Lucien what he thought of the recent news of Fred’s demise, and if there are still plans to turn him gay after he dies. We have republished his response in full below.
It is often considered proper form for the remaining party among two established enemies, when one is dead or dying, to make disingenuous statements of remorse—to express that ‘nobody wishes death’ upon their opponent. You’ll find no such dissembling from me. As I write this, Fred Phelps is now in the process of doing probably the one thing that he’ll ever do for which he will have my gratitude: he is dying. And while some part of me thinks, the sooner the better, another part of me hopes he lingers long enough to savor the full terror that must consume a mind as superstitious and bitterly haunted as his during its last moments of life.
The Man Who Decapitated His Seatmate on a Greyhound Bus Is Set to Be Released
After sawing off a man’s head with a Rambo knife six years ago, Vince Li will soon be able to leave the Canadian psychiatric unit behind for short periods of time and take a bus around the nearby Selkirk community on solo visits.
I called up Chris Summerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada and executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Manitoba. Chris considers himself a friend of Li’s and conductedthe only interview Li has ever given to media. We talked about his relationship with Li, whether the general public should be worried that he might stop taking his meds once he’s free, and trying to explain mental illness to people who believe that if you kill someone, you should be locked up for life, regardless of mental health issues.
VICE: Describe your relationship to Vince Li.
Chris Summerville: It’s been a relationship of rapport and developing a friendship, providing self-help services to him, peer support services, and helping him understand his mental illness. Basically, being a non-therapeutic person for him. Everybody’s asking him therapeutic questions, he needs somebody who can just talk to him in a personal, one-on-one way.
Vince Li’s psychiatrist from the Selkirk Mental Health Center, Dr. Steven Kremer, says Li runs a low risk of re-offending once back in the community. What does that mean?
It means the psychiatrist does risk assessment. What they evaluate is whether or not he has insight into his illness. And he does have insight into his illness. They also evaluate whether he is compliant with his medication and understands the need to take the medication, which he is and does. Also, [assessing whether] he has any addiction problems, which he doesn’t. Does he have any sociopathic traits? He doesn’t. He’s an ideal patient, he hasn’t had any altercations with any of the patients since he’s been [at the Selkirk Mental Health Center], so he’s really an ideal patient.
Humans Have a Long History of Eating Each Other
People who eat people are generally not considered “good people.” If you have any doubts, spend an afternoon searching the world wide web and peruse the “Cannibal Top Ten Lists,” which are occupied by the Milwaukee Monster Jeffrey Dahmer, Japanese exchange student Issei Sagawa, and child-killer Albert Fish. And news of the insane and psychopathic hits our home pages on the regular, such as the recent story of a hotel restaurant in Nigeria shut down by police for serving human flesh as an “expensive treat.”
The dispatches we have from a pre-internet era are no different. With the torch lit by Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century B.C., carried on by the likes of Captain Cook and his crewin the Pacific, and still not yet extinguished by those traveling through Africa in the early twentieth century, a significant portion of European history is dedicated to documenting encounters with the bloodthirsty man-eaters of the far corners of the globe.
Tinged with varying degrees of racism, many of these accounts are just xenophobic hearsay. A surprising number, however, have actually been verified as true.
Nope, Still No Such Thing as a Fatal Marijuana Overdose
By all accounts, 31-year-old mother of three Gemma Moss recently smoked half a joint to help her sleep, and then she never woke up: a tragic passing that quickly yielded giddy tabloid headlines touting her as “the first woman in Britain to be poisoned to death by cannabis.”
As though some incredible sports record had just been achieved.
And really, the headlines could have gone even further, proclaiming poor Ms. Moss “the first person in recorded history to die of a marijuana overdose!” Which, given the fact that humans have been ingesting the plant in one form or another for more than 10,000 years, certainly sounds like a scoop. Especially when science had previously pegged the dose you’d need to ingest in order to suffer a fatal overdose at considerably higher than half a joint.
According to a 1988 ruling from US Drug Enforcement Agency administrative law judge Francis Young:
Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50. The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity. A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana’s LD-50 rating in test animals, without success. Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death.
At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette…. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about 15 minutes to induce a lethal response.
So if the rather notably anti-marijuana DEA considers fatally overdosing on chronic nigh well impossible, and if even the world’s most rabid drug warriors can’t point to a single previous medically confirmed OD, how the heck did we end up with last week’s definitive headlines? Is it possible that Gemma Ross rolled up a 3,000-pound joint and then consumed half of it in one sitting?