Chapter 38: Accidental Interview with a Conspiracy Theorist

All-American Ruins
14 min readApr 29, 2024

Location: Green Mountain Race Track

Pownal, VT

con·spir·a·cy /kənˈspirəsē/ — n.

  • a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

In many ways, we all have a conspiracy theorist or two living inside us. At least I do.

Sometimes, the voices inside my head tell me stories about myself that are made-up, perceptions that are highly skewed simply because they can run amuck in my mind. Every once in a while, I’ve allowed false narratives to run freely, bouncing around in my brain, no real objective evidence to cite. A subjective assessment can turn into a self-applied, erratic conspiracy that tumbles head over heels into oblivion and winds up causing major personal damage. Add a fortifying sprinkle of trauma, and it’s a recipe for self-harm.

To break it down:

“A secret plan…” — the stories I tell in my head

“…by a group…” — the voices that tell those stories

“…to do something unlawful or harmful.” — not unlawful but most likely harmful

I think about all of the bullying that I experienced as a kid — both at school and at religious institutions that convinced me I was going to hell — and how those experiences carried with me into my adulthood; how I lived for years under the impression that many, many people were talking about me behind my back. One misunderstood social cue, and I could stew over a situation for years, not realizing that, in fact, most people were actually on my side (or weren’t even thinking about me at all). In therapy and through Alcoholics Anonymous, I’ve come to realize that the modality of automatically assuming someone doesn’t like me is merely a safety measure that my subconscious takes in order to protect my spirit. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve learned that this typical act of self-preservation no longer serves me well.

In the summer of 2023, I explored an abandoned greyhound racetrack in Vermont with my friend Julie, whom you’ve met. If you recall, Julie is a highly sociable person and can talk to any stranger. While we were poking about the ruins of the Green Mountain Racetrack, Julie noticed a couple of people approaching. My first instinct in these kinds of situations is to be alert and on guard. Not Julie. She called them over, loudly, much to my chagrin.

Julie and Dina

Enter Dina and Mike Smith, two perfectly kind and approachable folks, both in their late 50s, both devout Christians, and both believers in what Bloomberg calls the QAnon of architecture: the Tartarian Empire conspiracy theory. The history of this atypical belief system could be its very own blog post — and perhaps one day it will be — but for now, I can summarize it very simply: followers of this unusual conspiracy theory believe that abandoned spaces like the Green Mountain Racetrack were actually part of a “vast, technologically advanced ‘Tartarian’ empire, emanating from north-central Asia or thereabouts, either influenced or built vast cities and infrastructure all over the world,” according to Bloomberg.

The belief is that, after Tartaria imploded, the majestic buildings (think New York City’s Singer Building) that were once part of its grandiose empire, were, quite literally, buried, and the history behind it was erased.

When we bumped into Dina and Mike, Julie immediately encouraged me to conduct an interview, so I did. Rather than draw my own conclusions about the Tartarian Empire conspiracy theory in this post, I’d like to introduce you to Dina, a sweet, sensitive musician with a story of her own.

DINA: My name is Dina Smith. I lived up the road in Bennington, I would say from 1981 to early 2000s, in that area. We moved here when I was about 14 or 15, and I left when I was in my early 30s.

BLAKE: Where are we sitting right now? Can you describe it a bit?

DINA: This building that we’re in was the Green Mountain Racetrack, originally. It’s a very cool cavernous structure made of, I think, steel, concrete, and oak. And it’s abandoned. It’s got the wabi sabi going on. It’s breaking down, which is always a very curious thing that draws us.

We’ve got in front of us there used to be a racetrack, and now there’s grass and greenery and trees coming up through where the concrete used to be, and the earth is just reclaiming it and taking it back like it always does. It raced greyhound dogs.

BLAKE: Did you come here growing up? Did you come to watch racing?

DINA: When I first moved here, they were just closing it down because it’s not a humane thing. For years after, we would see the greyhounds that had survived the industry, having been adopted and walking up and down Main Street.

But I was here for Lollapalooza in the mid-’90s and a few other events. One of the bingo events I came to. And then of course, you know, just coming in to wander around and to see what’s going on with it.

BLAKE: When did you start exploring these kinds of places?

DINA: This (points to Mike) is my husband Mike. This is one of the things we like to do, explore places like this. I think both of us, our whole lives, have been curious about it, but as of late… we sometimes enjoy conspiracy theories. I’m just gonna say it. There are things that we’ve been learning about and looking into, and we’re in our 50s, so we’ve been around for a little while.

You’ve seen some changes in this country. Some of it’s kind of… pretty shifty. We’ve been learning about something that people have been referring to as either Tartaria or the Millennial Reign. What we’ve been learning is about the buildings that — okay, so in America, we have these phenomenal buildings that are just as phenomenal as the ones you see in Europe, right?

And we have ruins here, just like you see in Greece. And for some reason, we don’t talk about it.

And so it’s like, “No, you’re not looking at a castle, right?” We were saying this today. “You’re not looking at a castle. You’re looking at an armory. You’re looking at a post office. You’re looking at a college campus. That’s not a castle. No.” We, that, that was put up there in the 1800s. So the horse and buggy built these phenomenal structures? It is just not adding up. And it’s extremely intriguing to us.

We are believers in Christ. We love Christ. But the idea that the Millennial Reign already happened, I guess, is that particular conspiracy theory, and then there’s also the idea of Tartaria, which includes these incredible buildings, these phenomenal structures with spires and beautiful detail that’s so I mean, what else would inspire something like that, if not God, you know?

BLAKE: It’s interesting that you still refer to it as a “conspiracy theory,” even though it sounds like you kind of believe some of it. So when did you first come across the theory?

DINA: Well, yeah, I say that jokingly because we often feel pretty… you know, people will shut us down pretty quickly if we try and talk about it. There’s so many strong ideologies. Everybody just wants to war against each other and prove each other wrong. And it’s gotten to a level of sickness, mental illness, so we don’t want to argue with people. We just want to explore. We’re human beings. We want to know where we came from. We want to know our real history and what we’re really capable of.

BLAKE: When you first moved here, did you ever hear any stories about the track? About what it was like when it was in use?

DINA: Not really, but I’m going to tell you about an experience I had when I was a kid. That’s kind of similar to yours.

(NOTE: By “yours,” Dina is referring to my childhood fascination with an abandoned dairy farm down the hill from the house I grew up in.)

DINA: I’m living on Long Island. I’m from Long Island. And our upbringing is unsafe, for different reasons. But my sister and I, and some of our friends, had just walked into these woods, and we came across this building. It was so weird: a huge, enormous, white brick, abandoned building.

And I walked in, and the sun hit all the broken glass that was on the abandoned building. It was just a big explosion of these crazy things I can remember, I felt that feeling you described, anemoia. It was like, of mythological proportions. It was a presence. There was something about those buildings; even when they were dead, they were alive.

BLAKE: There’s something almost godly — if we’re going to use that word — about what the emptiness of it feels like. It’s like you said earlier: this is being reclaimed by the OG, original gangster, aka the planet. I feel like when you come to something like this, you’re getting a last glimpse, right before we all, you know…

And it’s so interesting to me, the way that you were saying earlier, things are not great right now. It’s tough. And to me, I have far moved past this “side of the aisle” thing.

DINA: Yeah, we have to.

BLAKE: Because if I can’t sit and listen to someone say with confidence, “I’m a Christian, I believe in God,” then who am I? I have shunned this thing that I say is so evil. And yet, here are two completely lovely people, who have a belief, a deep-seated belief.

DINA: Yeah, and it makes me wonder. We hate mainstream media. We just fucking hate it ’cause it’s just trying to get us to hate each other. And it’s working, on a pretty big scale, but there’s also people like us who are drawn to places like this for whatever reason. There’s a reason. We’re here for a reason, at this time. You’re being called to do what you’re being called to do. So are we, and we just collided in the middle today. Two roads diverged. It’s incredible.

BLAKE: What is it that keeps you coming back?

DINA: It’s inspiring. I’m a writer and a musician. We’re both very creative people, so it’s inspiring for one, but I also come to these places, and I get that feeling. Usually there’s no one else around. You just feel like you… it’s almost like you have an exclusive audience with God, the history of the place. We’ve also found some ruins in this country, absolute ruins, I mean older than this. I haven’t seen Parthenon, but it’s the same era. Pyramids all around. Underground. Under us now. That’s what I think.

It’s an amazing, inspiring, intriguing world that we live in. And our history is more than we know. And it’s kind of fun to just ask the questions. I mean, we know we may never get all the answers. We probably won’t get all the answers. But, damn, it sure is fun to ask the questions.

BLAKE: In my purview, this is the one shot that I was granted. This is the one chance. I haven’t found or discovered any evidence to suggest anything other than this happened. I am so blessed to have had this option to live 80 to 90 years on a rock that is hurtling through endless time, and it’s all I know. I have leaned into that version of events because it’s the easiest way for me to subjugate existence.

DINA: It’s a lens you’re looking through.

BLAKE: And it’s like you said: it’s vast, it’s expansive. Why wouldn’t you go see a little bit of it?

DINA: Have you been to New Mexico?

BLAKE: I’ve been. I grew up in Colorado. Actually, we spent a lot of time at Mesa Verde when I was a kid. How do you explain those buildings? I know what we’ve been told. But in your view…

DINA: There are some explanations, and they’re pretty freaking wild. We love New Mexico. We love it, love it, love it. Can’t get enough of it. There’s this content creator on YouTube. There’s many, of course, and you’ve got to weed through them, but he came up with a very interesting concept. He had a piece of wood, and he showed that when you clamp a battery on it, with electricity, you run a certain current through this piece of fiber. It burns into this pattern, kind of like a lightning pattern into the wood, and they’re raised ridges.

Then, if you go to Google Earth, and you look at these bases, and you zoom out, you’re seeing the same patterns. So there was this massive event, some kind of event when there was a lot of heat. There was a big flood, and that’s just not from the Christians. Everybody thinks there was at least one big flood. But I think there’s also a major heat melting thing that happens. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it, and it’s everywhere. Here it’s not as easy to see because everything is covered in greenery, but when you’re out west, it’s so stark.

BLAKE: I’m contracting with History Colorado on their podcast Lost Highways. One of the episodes is about this town called Gothic, Colorado, which I had never even heard of. And it’s all the way on the Western side of the state, which is that divide between Utah and Colorado.

And it’s a weird place. It’s one of those regions of the country that one doesn’t think about the way we think about the Midwest or New Mexico and the Southwest. It’s between the West Coast and the Rocky Mountain States. And there is this research station there, and they are doing research on, essentially, the power of the mountains, and how the rocky mountains are actually generating quite a bit of heat that we’re not aware of because it’s underground. They’re starting to notice that it is getting, slowly but surely, warmer.

DINA: Wow, there’s another rabbit hole. I’ll bet you are curious. When we were in New Mexico this past April, we ended up in Los Alamos, which was the weirdest thing I’ve ever done and will never ever go there again as long as I live. It was like being in a parody episode of South Park. It was creepy. When you’re standing in the town of Los Alamos, and you look at this mountain, it looks like the deadest thing you’ve ever seen. It’s just black. It’s beyond. What’s that about?

BLAKE: So, you mentioned that you’re a writer and a musician.

DINA: Yes. I’ve been a semi-professional-to-professional musician since I was a teenager. There’s a lot of music in our family. I play guitar, mandolin, and some bass. I play rock and roll, I play swing. Right now I’m playing mandolin for a little bluegrass album. I’ve released two albums. They’re both on Spotify. Dina Chapelle, which is the middle name. I’m also ghostwriting a book for a gentleman who went through the Liberian Civil War. That’s kind of intense. And I’m also a therapist sometimes. That’s what I got the master’s degree in.

BLAKE: Do you ever feel like that master’s degree actually informs your work as a musician and as a writer?

DINA: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I went to Goddard. It was a wonderful experience, and I would absolutely do it again. It’s very interdisciplinary study, and they’re pretty wide open as to what you can bring in, what you want to look at. I was, of course, curious about music and the transporting power of music, and I was very interested in psychedelics. They would only let me do so much with that, but I was able to write about it, and research, standing on the shoulders of all the researchers that have researched them from the ’40s on.

BLAKE: Must be interesting for you now to see this new, microdose revolution. Because it seems that all of that research, starting in the ’40s, to what you did, to now, seems to finally be finally catching on.

DINA: Gosh, it’s taken so long. It heals people. And it opens people up to other ideas, doors of perception.

BLAKE: What other abandoned spaces have you visited that stick out to you?

DINA: Recently, I’ve been hiking, and I’ve been looking for the really old stuff, and there’s tons of it in Milwaukee, just tons of it. These tumbled-down, massive blocks with right angles and it’s amazing. As far as around here, as far the Millennial “Reignstock” is what we call it, that’s like the old insane asylums.

BLAKE: You said that thing about the mythologicalization of your own story and your own upbringing. You do mythologize your own story, without realizing it because that’s how we contextualize everything. Our imaginations are pretty powerful, and they have the capability to do some pretty cool stuff, and the mythologizing of upbringing is everything.

DINA: It is. Have you read any of Carl Jung’s books?

BLAKE: Never.

DINA: Very dense. I studied a lot of it in college. And Joseph Campbell too. Any of that stuff, I think… it’s old school, but it’s very thorough. And what’s cool, I found with Joseph Campbell stuff, the reading is extremely dense, but because of the time when he was in the zeitgeist, he was filmed a lot. You can go on YouTube and find old lectures of him, and then you really get a sense of what he’s talking about and what he’s saying. He did this whole special with that famous journalist Bill Moyers. It was a week-long miniseries called The Power of Myth. Joseph Campbell just knows his shit. He knows all these sacred, ancient, obscure collections of writings from these cultures that we’ve never heard of. And it all comes down to, he’ll tell you, it all comes down to the Hero’s Journey. And I’m sure you’ve heard about that. He really brings it home. He really makes it real for you. It’s very cool.