Dead and Gone is a new podcast about dead Deadheads. Hosted by True Crime troubadours Payne Lindsey of Up and Vanished and Jake Brennan of Disgraceland, it explores the strange phenomenon of unsolved murders among the Grateful Dead's fanbase.
The first known — or at least, majorly reported — such instance was in 1986, when two travelling Deadheads, 22-year-old Mary Regina Gioia and 18-year-old Gregory Allen Kniffin, were killed on their way back to Rainbow Village, a homeless encampment near Berkeley. A Black man with the incredible name of Ralph International Thomas was charged, convicted, and sentenced to death … but the case was overturned in 2012, shortly before Thomas's death in prison.
Here are a few of the strange examples since, as summed up by The Daily Beast:
Bridget Lee Pendell-Williamson was 23 years old when she vanished while following the Grateful Dead in 1996.
Douglas Simmons was last seen at a Grateful Dead concert in 1990.
Mitchel Fred Weiser and his girlfriend, Bonita Bickwit, went missing while hitchhiking to a Grateful Dead concert in 1993.
In 1995, a man's body was found on the side of a highway by a Grateful Dead concert in Atlanta. His identity is still unknown.
In 2008, a woman's body was discovered by a fisherman underneath a boxspring in Sacramento. Her cause of death and identity is still unknown. The one marker: she was wearing a Grateful Dead jacket.
A murdered woman was found in the woods of Warren County, New Jersey, in 1991. The only identifying feature on her mutilated body was a tiger tattoo on her left leg—the same tiger design on Jerry Garcia's guitar.
Two men were found dead in a ghastly Volkswagen van crash in 1995, but only one of the men could be identified. The only clues to who the second person was: two Grateful Dead tickets in his pocket.
Obviously, the Grateful Dead had nothing to do with these murders, and there's nothing inherent to Deadheadness that makes them susceptible to being murdered. "The real commonality is this sort of vulnerability that exists in a lot of different subsets of people," said self-proclaimed cybersleuth Todd Matthes to the Beast. "The importance of this whole thing is that, by bundling them all together like that and giving them a moniker, it creates this commonality that is noticed. And so people who are part of the Grateful Dead world will see this, and they're likely the people who could help solve it."
It's certainly a series of weird coincidences — and knowing that unique true crime podcasting styles of Brennan and Payne, I'm sure they'll bring a fascinating spin to the way they tell these strange stories.
Dead and Gone launched with 2 episodes on October 15, with new episodes to follow every Thursday for 9 weeks.
Image: Shawn Perez / Flickr (CC 2.0)