Death Becomes Us

Death Becomes Us Festival

True Crime at Christmas? South Philadelphia’s Devil’s Den Presents Death Becomes Us: Holidazed Edition.

Real crime itself may be rampant in Philly, and no fun when you consider its consequences. But, “true crime”, as an art form for podcasts and live staged events, is awesome. And nobody does it better than those at the Death Becomes Us festival. Of course, like everything else in 2020, has been postponed because of the C-19 pandemic. Still, its’ organizers are literally and figuratively armed for bear with a virtual, holiday-themed true crime variety show.

The virtual show, titled “Devil’s Den Presents Death Becomes Us: Holidazed Edition” is Wednesday, December 16 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. for $8 per person. The event will feature Sarah Cailean, co-host of HLN’s “Hell in the Heartland.” As well as Amanda Knox and “Last Podcast on the Left” personality Henry Zebrowski as “Ghosts of Death Becomes Us Past.” 

Money raised from the virtual variety show will benefit employees of Devil’s Den as they remain C-19 closed. As well as the fest’s nonprofit partner Eastern PA Trans Equity Project (EPTEP), a transgender-led organization that serves the trans and gender-diverse population of eastern Pennsylvania. Tickets for the virtual variety show are $8 and are available for purchase on Death Becomes Us on Instagram.

Jennifer Tisdale, creator and director of Death Becomes Us, told dosage MAGAZINE and I about hooking up with one of Philadelphia’s best beer bars, and how she got to death and crime to begin with. 

Death Becomes Us
Jennifer Tisdale

A.D. Amorosi: How, when and why did you create and curate Death Becomes Us in the first place? Is there not enough true crime in the world? 
Jennifer Tisdale: In the before-times, I was working at a media/event company in DC when, during a company meeting, the words “true crime festival” floated into my brain from the great beyond. But probably from Stitcher where a steady rotation of true crime podcasts lived. I wrote the words down on a dirty napkin… We just finished lunch. I don’t own a collection of dirty napkins… And slid it over to my boss. Voila! The festival was born. The festival itself, and this holiday virtual version of it, had three kinds of shows. There were straightforward true crime shows to feed the intense fans, such as Capturing the DC Sniper, DC November 2019 festival. We had comedic true crime shows for folks who understood that a certain amount of gallows humor is necessary to consume this genre. That’s your Last Podcast on the Left show, DC November 2018 festival. Then there was my favorite show to curate. The show that wasn’t a true-crime show until I made it a true-crime show with a guest. In March of 2019 at the NYC festival, we booked the wildly popular comedy show Tinder Live with Lane Moore. And had Paul Holes, Billy Jensen, Amanda Knox and Kat Timpf swiping through Tinder in front of a live audience. The thing about true crime is, it survives in Facebook groups, message boards, Instagram comment sections. But it barely has a place in the real world for fans to get together and chat. That’s partially what Death Becomes Us did. It took the fandom out of the URL and brought it into the IRL. 

A.D. Amorosi: How does what you do play well within a live, now virtual, setting? 
Jennifer Tisdale: Death Becomes Us is a beautiful buffet of live, now virtual, shows. I try to book a little bit of something for everyone so people can walk away from, or log off of, Death Becomes Us with a new interest in something else. This virtual event is slightly more lighthearted than the festival which usually alternated heavy shows with less heavy shows, which were treated as sort of a palate cleanser. Death Becomes Us was always at a live music venue. Each show was back-to-back never overlapping so folks weren’t forced to choose between two amazing options. With that in mind, I always made sure the emotional vibe was not 100% down to give people a chance to recover, if you will, from the darker content. I always put a lot of thought into trying to take care of the mental health of our attendees.

A.D. Amorosi: Wait. Are you from Philly or are you phoning, video-ing in?
Jennifer Tisdale: I am not from Philly but my DNA is from Philly. I am related to Henry Deringer, the man who invented the Deringer pistol. The pistol John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. The Deringers were beloved in Philadelphia. So much so that we have a pretty large family plot, that I once dragged Death Becomes Holidazed Edition talent Sarah Cailean to, in Laurel Hill Cemetery. It’s so impressive that I’m thinking about moving there myself, someday. 

A.D. Amorosi: Connect the dots, please, between true crime and Christmas.
Jennifer Tisdale: I can’t connect those dots because Sarah Cailean, HLN’s Hell in the Heartland, is doing a special holiday-themed true crime show at our event called “O Holy Fright.” She has all of those dots connected for you. Ya gotta watch to find out!

A.D. Amorosi: How did you come to choose true criminals such as Amanda Know and Henry Zebrowski to work with? 
Jennifer Tisdale: I am friends with both Henry and Amanda. Henry for a few years and Amanda via the festival. They have been at Death Becomes Us twice and I know they approach the genre in different ways that I respect equally. I also know they are delightful human beings who will bring something pretty magical to this virtual event. I requested their pets also be present.

A.D. Amorosi: What do you like most about working with Devil’s Den?
Jennifer Tisdale: Erin, its owner, cares so much about her employees and this city it was inspiring during a time where very little inspiration exists. Also, have you been to Devil’s Den? Honey they have a fireplace that is just begging to have an event built around it.

Death Becomes Us

A.D. Amorosi: What is your juiciest true crime tale and what ale would you most recommend be drunk while listening, talking about it? 
Jennifer Tisdale: I recommend having a drink or two while consuming true crime but I’m rarely drunk because I insist on remembering every gruesome detail. Gird your loins because a story I think about often is the tale of St. Ebba the Young. You see Ebba was a nun in Scotland in the 9th century. As you can imagine women, even nuns, were treated quite poorly then. In 879 during a Danish invasion of Scotland… I know we’re all picturing a giant pastry invading Scotland but I promise it was the Danes… Okay. Now we’re picturing dogs. Ebba rounded up all of the nuns and convinced them there was only one thing to do to protect them from being raped. She sliced off her nose and lip, letting the blood run down her face. The nuns followed. The Danes were so disgusted by their appearance, they left. Sadly they later returned and set the entire nunnery on fire. But this is where we got the saying “Cut off your nose to spite your face.” See what I mean? Gruesome details.

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