“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
―Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Trying to make sense of the paranormal in its various guises has been a lifelong pursuit for me that began at a very early age. I don’t know what drives some of us to pursue these topics to the point of near insanity – at least I hope it’s just near – while others can simply dismiss them or shrug them off without a second thought. In a way, I envy them…but not much.
When I was 23, I had my second paranormal-existential crisis. The first one happened when I was in the first grade, which leads us to:
Paranormal-Existential Crisis 1 – Ghost Stories, BHMs and the Pizza Hut Revelation
Three weird things happened to me when I was seven. The first (I think) was that I went to see the movie The Legend of Boggy Creek with my brother. It was based on the allegedly true story of a BHM (big hairy monster) that was terrorizing people around rural Fouke, Arkansas in the 1950s and 60s and was called, appropriately enough, the Fouke Monster. I don’t remember the actual movie having that big of an effect on me. What did get my attention was the short bonus feature that preceded the main attraction: a documentary about Bigfoot. It included the now famous and always controversial Patterson-Gimlin footage shot in 1967 of the creature strolling through a clearing in the forests of Northern California and repeatedly glancing over its shoulder at the cameraman as if it wasn’t entirely sure what to make of him. (Patterson later said that it was more a look of contempt than anything else.) That definitely got my attention. Reenactments and witness testimonials are one thing. Actual footage of a monster is another.
The second thing (or maybe it was first, I was young at the time) was that I found a book of supposedly true ghost stories in the bargain bin of a discount store while shopping with my grandmother and, for some reason, decided that I had to have it. I had never been interested in ghosts before, though I was a big fan of old horror movies from the 40s and 50s, especially ones about werewolves. It also had a really cool and creepy cover. The most surprising thing as I look back on that now is that my grandmother actually bought it for me. She was a minister’s daughter, very religious and not at all permissive. She certainly never encouraged any sort of belief or interest in the paranormal (other than the religious variety) in her children or grandchildren.
At this point I suppose that I should point out, in the interest of full disclosure, that she did also once save an issue of National Wildlife for me that I still have to this day because it had an article about Bigfoot in it and she knew that I would want to read it. That was when I was still seven or eight, so maybe there was more to her, paranormal-wise, than I realized at the time.
Anyway, I never did more than skim a page or two of that book. It was too scary for me at that age. Most supposedly true ghost stories really weren’t meant for first graders.
The third thing happened the summer after first grade. We were having dinner at a Pizza Hut in Dallas and my father was telling us about how a UFO had allegedly crashed not too far from there back in the 1800s, and the odd-looking pilot of the craft had been killed and was supposedly buried in the local cemetery.
The story in question was the much debated case of a flying saucer that purportedly crashed near the tiny town of Aurora, Texas just north of Fort Worth in 1897. Looking back in later years, I wondered why my father would be talking about this in 1973. He has never been a UFO guy, so why would he know anything about a saucer crash that happened nearly a hundred years earlier. A little research turned up the fact that there was some renewed interest in this old case at the time due to a couple of UPI stories about a UFO group that wanted to dig up the “alien’s” grave to see what was there. They didn’t get permission then and haven’t since, so the grave remains a mystery. Stupid rule-followers. Don’t they know what the middle of the night is for?
You can read up on it further if you want, but there’s not a lot more to tell. The point is that I now had reason to believe that a Martian, as he was so naively called them back then, had crashed his ship just a few miles away from where I lived at the time.
Until then, I was just like every other kid as far as this kind of stuff was concerned. I had always been told that that there were no such things as ghosts, monsters were just fairy tales, and aliens were only in movies. Then, in less than a year, I came to own a book that said that there really were such things as ghosts, my own father had essentially told me that there were such things as aliens, and I had seen actual footage that proved to me at the time that there damn well were such things as monsters. That’s a lot to take in when you’re seven.
So I never really had much of a chance at normal. I was a very thoughtful, intelligent and curious kid. There was no way that I could ever have just let all of this go. I either had to develop an interest in the paranormal or go into denial, and I have never been one for denial. My world became one where the supernatural existed all around us before I had even learned to write in cursive. And so while the other kids in my class were reading Charlotte’s Web and The Mouse and the Motorcycle, I was reading books about ghosts, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. At least all of my friends thought this was cool, so I wasn’t branded as being some kind of a freak. That came later.
So I was fascinated by the paranormal. What I was not fascinated by was UFOs, despite the possibility that one might have crashed near where I lived. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe that they existed. Enough people had seen them that I figured they couldn’t all be crazy or lying and I, like most other people who believe UFOs to be real, just assumed that they were spaceships from another planet. I was more interested in the supernatural, the paranormal. What’s paranormal about explorers from another planet?
(You might also ask what’s paranormal about cryptids like Bigfoot? If they’re real, aren’t they just animal species that have yet to be identified? I naively thought the same thing and had pretty much lost interest in them as well by the time I was a teenager.)
That all changed when I first saw the cover of Whitley Strieber’s groundbreaking book Communion. I’m not alone on that. The effect that the cover illustration has had on numerous people has been well documented. Like them, I felt that there was just something about that face that poked at something in my unconscious. I cannot, however, say that it was a face that I thought I recognized like some others have claimed.
I finally got around to reading Communion in the fall of 1988 when it came out in paperback. Fascinated as I was by the cover, I was still a struggling college student with no money for hardcover bestsellers. Once I had read it, I immediately realized that something far stranger than curious aliens from another planet was going on. In the next year, I read close to twenty books on the UFO phenomenon, which led to:
Paranormal-Existential Crisis 2 – Aliens, Elves and Mothman: the IHOP Connection
I very quickly got good at determining which books on the subject were worth reading as opposed to which ones were just recitations of sightings and/or abductions that ignored all aspects of the phenomenon that did not support the author’s extraterrestrial preconceptions. I was so overwhelmed by the magnitude of what appeared to be going on with this incomprehensible intelligence that I sometimes had trouble focusing on or caring about the trivialities of everyday life. What, I repeatedly asked myself, is the point of caring about my crummy job or my education when reality as we know it is just a scam? Worst of all was that my background as a paranormal/supernatural enthusiast allowed me to spot the many similarities between UFOs and their occupants and supernatural phenomena like poltergeists, out of body experiences, mythological beings, etc. Even the authors who were honest enough to report these elements of the experience seemed to have no knowledge of their supernatural connections, a situation that continues to this day. Most researchers of the paranormal are so ridiculously compartmentalized in their own niche that they remain ignorant (in some cases intentionally) of the overlap that occurs between their various, individual specialties. Most UFO investigators continue to support the logically untenable belief in aliens from another planet and ignore or dismiss all evidence to the contrary.
As I stated earlier, I’m not good at denial. I had no choice but to acknowledge the UFO/supernatural connection once I saw it. I knew that wherever it was from, this intelligence was something far greater than just curious explorers from another planet conducting reconnaissance and bizarre medical examinations.
Was it really possible that nobody else could see the overwhelmingly paranormal aspect of the UFO phenomenon? Could a 23 year-old college student who had just read his first book about UFOs a year ago and had no field experience as an investigator really be the only one who had figured this out? That was a disturbing idea for a kid just trying to work his way through school to have to walk around with in his head with seemingly no one else to turn to.
I needn’t have worried. As if on cue (synchronicity?), I discovered the works of John Keel and Jacques Vallee, and found that I was far from being the first to recognize this. They had both figured out the UFO/paranormal connection two decades earlier, as had RAF Air Marshall Sir Victor Goddard. I suddenly found myself in very good company.
So what’s the “IHOP connection” I mentioned in the previous subheading? That’s a reference to one of the best close encounter stories ever. In 1961, a farmer near Eagle River, Wisconsin named Joe Simonton heard a strange noise outside his home around 11:00 a.m. When he went out to investigate, he saw a silver disk “brighter than chrome” hovering close to the ground. It was about 30’ in diameter and 12’ thick. A hatch opened up and Simonton saw three men inside. They all had dark hair and swarthy complexions and stood about five feet tall. One of them held out a silver jug and motioned to Simonton in a way that he took to mean that the man wanted water, so Simonton took the jug inside and filled it. When he came back, he noticed one of the men in the craft seemed to be cooking something on a flameless grill. Simonton gestured toward the man indicating that he was curious what they were cooking. One of the men went back into the ship and returned with three small pancakes which he placed in Simonton’s hand. The men then closed the hatch and the craft rose about 20’ in the air and took off.
Simonton, perhaps having more courage than brains, ate one of the pancakes and said it tasted like cardboard. He then called the sheriff, who came out and investigated but found no evidence of anything. The sheriff decided to call the Air Force. They came out and investigated, and so did J. Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallee. Everyone but the Air Force thought that Simonton was telling the truth. The sheriff told all of them that Simonton was an honest man who had never been in any trouble or called attention to himself. The Air Force took the other two pancakes and had them analyzed. They turned out to be perfectly normal flapjacks.
Years later while studying up on Gaelic folklore, Vallee ran across a poem about the fairy folk that reminded him of Simonton. I won’t quote the whole thing, but here are the relevant lines:
Down along the rocky shore some make their home.
They live on crispy pancakes of yellow tide-foam.
He wasn’t seriously trying to imply that pancakes are some integral part of the UFO mystery, he was just pointing out a somewhat comical connection to fairy lore and the Simonton case. There are many other similarities between folklore and UFOs that are much more significant.
All of this reminded me of something from my childhood that I hadn’t thought about in years. In the mid-1970s, a number of people around the small farming and ranching community of San Saba, Texas reported seeing a strange bird creature. Local experts (whoever they were) said that it was a deformed crane. Local experts in West Virginia said much the same thing about Mothman despite the fact that witnesses said that what they had seen was no crane. Was the San Saba creature Mothman? I don’t know. I’m relying solely on memory here and I can’t remember any specific details about witness descriptions. And if you can find newspaper reports from little towns in West Texas in the 1970s, you’re a better investigator and/or have more time on your hands than me. What I do recall is a letter sent to one of the local papers written by a woman who lived in the area. She claimed that the creature was quite friendly and often stopped by her house for breakfast. Was she crazy or just poking some fun at the witnesses and believers? Is it even remotely possible that she might be telling the truth? I have no idea. What I do know is that the woman did happen to mention what the creature’s favorite breakfast food was: blueberry pancakes.
I wrote a letter to Jacques Vallee telling him about this and got back a handwritten note thanking me for the amusing story of the Mothman who came to breakfast. I’d like to think that I still have it somewhere, but I haven’t seen it in years. I can’t believe I would have thrown it away.
So that’s my introduction and this is my website. I hope that you’ll check back every week or so for a new dose of (hopefully) entertaining insanity. I’ll be covering some pretty heavy topics, but also some fun ones, albeit weird fun. I might bend your mind, but I’ll try not to break it. To that end, please remember that to explore this realm requires that one must always be armed with all five of the necessary faculties of mind (as per the Law of Fives) necessary to successfully navigate your way through Chapel Perilous: the sword of reason, the wand of intuition, the cup of sympathy, and the pentacle of valor. And never forget the most sacred fifth implement of mind – so secret that the creators of the Tarot dared not even hint of it in their deck – the most elusive, arcane and magnificent weapon that one can ever possess when confronting the unknown all alone in the darkness: the rubber chicken of humor. You can beat any demon to death with that.