For the lovers of the bizarre and the kooky, one couldn’t do much better than The Weekly World News.
For those unfortunate enough not to have heard of it, The Weekly World News was the venerable print institution that reliably graced supermarket tabloid shelves starting in 1979, and which remained in print until 2007. It was voraciously collected by incredulous shoppers who couldn’t quite suss out if the headlines and really fakey-looking photographs were meant to be an earnest — and insane — interpretation of the world, or if the entire rag was an extended and protracted satire of journalism. In a world where dubiously honest tabloids about celebrities were (and still are) big business, The Weekly World News offered a healthy and cynical antidote. Or perhaps just a logical extreme of the tabloid ethos. Or… an honest-to-goodness secret history of the modern world.
You see, The Weekly World News reported on aliens, Bigfoot, and the modern day adventures of Jesus Christ. Alien abductions, narrowly-averted apocalypses, and the continuing life of Elvis Presley were accept as fact in this universe. There was photographic proof of Heaven in every third issue. And Bigfoot was just a kindly neighbor.
Certain audiences ate it up, whether ironically or not; every aspiring weirdo collected the WWN at some point, and the institution continues to this day in online form. The tone has, thankfully, remained unchanged. Is it comic, or is it insanity? How seriously do we take headlines like “SATURN IS A GIANT U.F.O.!”?
The most notorious headline (and weirdest ongoing story) ever reported on by The Weekly World News was the saga of one of America’s most infamous “real” monsters: The Bat Boy. On the cover of the June 23rd, 1992 issue, the headline read “BAT CHILD FOUND IN CAVE!” It was accompanied by a truly disturbing photograph of a large-mouthed, large-eyed, pointy-eared, fanged child, displaying its gaping maw (which looks more hungry than noisy) for the camera. Although Bat Boy was reported as being 10 years old, the photo made him look much younger — perhaps five or six — complete with gentle, childish eyebrows and an infant’s bald head. It looked like a scientific photograph, taken when Bat Boy was perhaps interacting with an off-camera scientist.
Thanks largely to that picture, Bat Boy became an instant celebrity in the underground world of kooks, and the Bat Boy issue became WWN‘s second best-seller. Bat Boy still remains, to this day, the face of The Weekly World News, and his his saga has only continued to some very odd places.
The story was originally reported on by WWN publisher and cartoonist Dick Kulpa, also a writer for CRACKED. According to the story, Bat Boy was discovered by scientist Dr. Ron Dillon, who found him in Hell Hole Cave (a fictional location, as far as we know) in Pendleton County, West Virginia (although a conflicting story has Bat Boy originating in The Lost World Caverns in the same state). Dillon classified the boy as being 10 years old, and a hybrid between human a bat. It was eventually revealed that Bat Boy’s mother was a human woman named Susan Boy, and his father was… well, a bat-like creature.
I personally followed the saga of Bat Boy for a few years, always catching up with the kid when he would appear in The Weekly World News. How curious that no other publications were reporting on the creature? Was there some sort of media conspiracy to keep Bay Boy a secret? Was the WWN the only paper that was brave enough to tell the truth? Bat Boy was said to be very small, of course — about 2 feet tall. Bat Boy also had a pair of wings, which he would shed every few years, if memory serves. As time passed, Bat Boy would get bigger and bigger. In 2016, Bat Boy will be 34 years old.
According to an ancient chart discovered by the hard-working “journalists” at The Weekly World News, humans and a species of bat-like creatures (that are possessed of bat DNA) had once interbred, producing a family of bat-human hybrids. Over the years, WWN uncovered Bat Boy’s entire genealogy, going all the way back to the Mayflower, revealing a hidden history of the United States in the process. The Boy family (originally the Boee family) landed in the U.S. In the early 17th century, remaining out of sight for much of its history, only to occasionally rise into the limelight to be persecuted.
Bat Boy himself, born in 1982, was an intelligent creature, but also something of a mythological trickster, often giving authorities the slip. He was eventually granted his own Javert in the form of one Matthew Daemon, SOS (Seeker of Obscure Supernaturals). Bat Boy was also something of a criminal, reportedly drinking blood of human victims — often through a crazy straw.
Bat Boy’s life was one of incredible and amazing incident: He was captured, he escaped, he was dead, he faked his death. He met Elvis. He bit Santa Claus. He joined the army. He converted to Judaism. He worked with the government. He defused bombs. It was even once rumored that he was dating Jennifer Lopez.
Over the years, the actual narrative of Bat Boy’s life grew more and more strange, and he seemed to move with no purpose or reason. He staggered in and out of the public eye — sometimes as a villain, sometimes as a hero. He was a criminal and a vigilante, an attention whore and a recluse; a healthy man about town, and an underground agent.
Bat Boy’s life has remained consistently reported, even as public interest has waned. Although he is still something of a folk hero, his star has definitely fallen since his glory days of 1992. In many ways, it’s like he’s dissipating. The WWN, however, has never stopped a running tally on his life, even if the public isn’t paying as close attention.
WWN once reported that Bat Boy had joined a band, but the name of the band was not revealed. In 2003, Bat Boy was one of the many crazy celebrities who ran for Governor during that whacked-out recall election that led to Arnold Schwarzenegger being governor. (Bat Boy would have perhaps made just as good a governor as any of the others that year.) Bat Boy was a Republican, and protested gay marriage acts. He was a supporter of John McCain in 2008, but eventually changed his mind. Adherence to politics is usually a last-gasp stab at fame made by celebrities… if Bat Boy can ever be considered a celebrity.
Bat Boy seems to be in a constant struggle for fame: We can’t be sure if he’s doing his fun stunts because he’s a thrill-seeker, or if he just wants WWN to report another story. Did he really want to be Pope in 2013? And what does he think of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL, the stage production that debuted in 1997, and ran off-Broadway in 2003, and still enjoys revivals to this day [and which we covered in our feature on the oddest horror musicals]. And how involved was he in the seminal 2010 volume GOING MUTANT: THE BAT BOY EXPOSED!?
Bat Boy seems to me to be a tired man who is only prolonging his quarter-life crisis. He thirsts for attention and media reportage, but also seeks solitude and anonymity. He hasn’t learned to balance the two halves of his life, like Bigfoot. The human world offered him too much fame too quickly, and his life is now a litany of acting out.
The Weekly World News will continue to report on Bat Boy… but sometimes I wish I could sit down with the guy and have a talk. Calm him down. Let him become the grown-up version of Bat Boy, and find whom he really wants to be.
Or maybe I’m just jealous of his Devil-may-care approach to life? Why slow down for anything? Maybe the reportage is incidental, and he lives life with all cylinders blasting? If he dies fast, we’ll never know if it was real, just another stunt, or just another journalistic conspiracy.
No matter what, Bat Boy has led an odd life.