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SPOOKED! Episode 9: Spooky By Nature


“One thing drives out another,” as the saying goes. Most often it’s said to explain why you forgot something. Sometimes, however, one thing will drive another out of the shadows and make you remember it.

That just happened to me. Last night. 7-ish.

To put things in context, I spent a couple of hours over the MLK weekend watching this documentary series called Hellier from Planet Weird. Good stuff, you should watch it. It makes a nice change if all you’ve ever seen of paranormal researchers are the Dude Ghost Bros for whom absolutely everything is a ghost, demon, or proof of ghosts or demons. You know who I mean.

Hellier is about the return of the Kentucky Goblins that were all the paranormal rage back in the late 1950s. When I heard about them, they were described as quintessential little green UFO men in a 1960s FATE Magazine article that I swiped from my aunt when I was a youngster. It scared the crap out of me then and the memory still lingers–so much so, that I talked about it in the first of these SPOOKED installments. So, of course, I was all about Hellier.

Anyway.

One of the recurrent themes of Hellier is synchronicities, which are meaningful coincidences that happen without any apparent causal relationship–something that happens a lot in and around my personal life.

For example, I was introduced to the Kentucky Goblins as space aliens from a UFO. The people who experienced them originally referred to them as goblins from an abandoned mine nearby. Or Tommyknockers. Meanwhile, the German version of a little demon who lives in mines or tunnels, is the Kobold, a version of which happens to be the main antagonist in Tales from the Back of a Bus. Weird, right?

One of the synchronicities in Hellier throws back to John Keel and The Mothman Prophesies. Now, if you’ve only seen the movie incarnation of Keel’s book, you really don’t have any idea of what happened in Point Pleasant, WV, so you should probably read the book after you binge watch Hellier. Which is what I did.

This is the problem with falling down a rabbit hole as I did with Hellier: the synchronicities involved in that story lead to other stories, that lead to still other stories, and so on, and so on, and shoobie doobie doo-bee. I’m not even done synchronizing my synchronicities and here I am popping out a brain fart.

And then this brain fart will, maybe, set a bunch of you off on your own rabbit hunts through other rabbit holes, and thus the fabric of space and time is held together for another day.

Or something.

Geesh.

Once upon a time, I tried reading The Mothman Prophesies, but then I saw the movie and was all “Spooky Chapstick? Pfft, who wants to read that?” I was wrong. I admit it. Sorry, Mr. Keel, sir.

The book was so much more, casting a wider net than a tall freaky dude with red glowing eyes and bat wings scaring kids at Makeout Point. A lot more. Keel’s idea is that flying saucers, ghosts, mothmen, and goblins are distractions from a deeper truth, that all the things we think of as paranormal are interrelated, and the pigeon holes we stick them in are just how we interpret them [or how the forces behind the experiences want us to interpret them], but not what they actually are.

Keel originally published The Mothman Prophesies in 1975, so he was way ahead of the curve in that regard. I first encountered that concept in Jacques Vallee’s Passport to Magonia [1993] which I read along with his other books, back in the days I lived in Philadelphia in the mid-80s to the late 90s during the Whitley Streiber/Communion hubbub.

[Are you keeping up with this? Should I leave a trail of breadcrumbs?]

The weird thing about Communion was that I read it when it first came out 1987-ish. I remembered vividly a scene where Whitley Strieber and his family and friends were woken up in the wee small hours by a fire or a smoke alarm going off. One of the friends, named Raven, had an experience at the time that set off a whole series of events in the book. What I didn’t know was that Streiber’s friend Raven was also MY friend Raven from college who I hadn’t seen in ages. 2+2 ≠ Raven until 2008 or so.

Do you see how brain bendy all this gets? I’m not even done yet.

So, to recap: Watched Hellier; it reminded me of The Mothman Prophesies, which I then reread and in the process it reminded me of Passport to Magonia and Communion, by way of my friend Raven who is my Six Degrees of Whitley Strieber. Last night around 7 pm, I finished Mothman and started Passport to Magonia. I couldn’t find my paperback [it’s probably in a box somewhere in the house] so I added yet another ebook to my digital hoard and started reading the new introduction Vallee added for the digital edition.

You may think you don’t know who Jacques Vallee is, but you know who he is. He was the inspiration for François Truffaut’s LaCombe character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. So there.

In the introduction, Vallee talks about advances in technology and how online databases of UFO encounters are way more accurate and up-to-date than the sad little human tabulated one at the back of the original edition of Magonia. Which sparked a memory. I seemed to recall writing Vallee a letter, saying that a reference he made to a 1974 sighting was incorrectly attributed to another part of the state of Pennsylvania. It should have been listed in Carbondale, PA because I remember the furor and rumors flying over it at the time. [Because I can be that guy, and also I was wrong. There were two “crashes,” one in Kecksburg, PA in 1965 and the other in Carbondale in 1974. My bad. Sorry, Mr. Vallee.]

Wait. What? I had the balls to write to Jacques Vallee? I had to think about that a minute. And yes, yes I did have the balls to write to him. More than once, now that I think about it and I am as flabbergasted as you are, probably, if not more so.

Here’s what happened:

I was living in Philadelphia at the time [I lived there from 1985 to 1997]. My former boyfriend, Langston, used to complain about my snoring. Frankly, everybody did–people not even in my bedroom with me, or in the same building. Langston had the extra added perk of being able to complain about how I talked in my sleep. One morning he asked, “What were you dreaming about last night?”

I shrugged. I very rarely remember my dreams unless they’re super weird and I wake up in the middle of one. “What was I saying?”

“You were touching the headboard saying, ‘Wow, it doesn’t even feel like metal’ or something like that.”

Weird, right? That’s what I thought, too. I needed to hear it for myself. Being 1987 or 88, my technology options were limited. I bought a voice-activated cassette recorder and some 120-minute cassettes. [If you don’t know what those are, call your grandma and ask. You should have called her anyway.]

So, I set the recorder up on my nightstand, set it to voice activated mode, and went to bed. I did that every night for a couple of weeks, and at some point during the following day I would listen to the previous night’s recording.

Given the nature of voice activation, there were lots of clips of me snoring like a Balrog, [I’ve always assumed they snored, haven’t you?] a little distorted at the beginning [from the tape spinning up] with little gaps of silence at the end [however much quiet it took for the widget to decide to switch off again].

Occasionally, I’d be treated to the sound of Langston telling me to roll over after a potent round of snores, or one of our cats digging in the litterbox in the middle of the night. What thrills! What excitement!

It was fairly tedious reviewing the tapes every day until I developed a system. The recorder had a cue function where you could listen to the tapes as you fast forwarded through them. After a while, I got a good sense of which sounds were snores because they were the majority. So, all I had to do is wait until I heard something different, a not snore sound. That moved things along nicely. If you think listening to your recorded voice is a shit show, try listening to endless hours of your own truncated snores.

So, one day I’m scanning through a tape. I think I was on the SEPTA R8 train heading home from work when I heard a not snore. Wee! Maybe I’ll give myself the winning Powerball numbers! Or the answer to “Life, the Universe, and Everything!”

Quickly, I hit rewind and listened.

Then I did it again. And again. I’m sure I was making all sorts of WTF faces.

It wasn’t my voice. It wasn’t Langston’s. It wasn’t a cat, or the television. It wasn’t even a neighbor as far as I could tell because I’d never heard anything like it before or since. It was a metallic, sci-fi movie robot sounding voice saying two words.
A metallic sounding , sci-fi movie robot sounding voice saying two words into a metal bucket. “Rich talmud.”

What the fuck did that mean? Who said it? Why did they sound like a cheap movie special effect? And what, above all else, were they doing in my bedroom? I freaked out.

Insert a mental freak out montage here. It will speed things up. I did my due diligence, such as it was. No Rich Talmud in the phone book. I knew what the Talmud was, had no idea why a robot voice in my bedroom would be telling me how rich it was. There was no Google at the time. The internet was barely a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye. It was pre-cell phone. There were cordless phones at the time, but I never heard a neighbor’s phone conversation, and never heard of a basic tape recorder picking one up on voice activation mode.

Whatever quick thought popped into your head, ask yourself did that exist in 1987? And what would it be doing in some dude’s bedroom in the middle of the night?

As I was reading Vallee’s Passport to Magonia at the time, will all of its high strangeness and transient weirdness, I thought, “Hey, I know! I’ll send the French guy a copy and see what he thinks!” So I did.

That’s where I’m going to have to leave it. [Sorry] I don’t remember what, if anything, he said about it. There was a lot of stuff going on in my life at the time, and chunks of it seem to have been wiped from my memory banks. If Mr. Vallee responded, I saved it. It’s just a question of going through my files and desk drawers looking for it.

For what it’s worth, I probably still have the tape, too. Stuck in a drawer. I’ll look. If I find, I’ll share–you know, if I can find a way to play a cassette tape in the age of iPhones and other digital doodads.

Since then, I’ve learned about electronic voice phenomena and other strangeness, so I’m no longer freaking about what it is. Why it is, still bothers me. There isn’t a lot I can do to resolve that. I haven’t lived in that apartment on Upsal Street in a very long time, and I lived in Philly for over 20 years.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing about it now, except it bothers me that I didn’t remember this story [and still don’t remember parts of it] until a really weird bunch of ricocheting tangential synchronicities piled up in my lap after watching Hellier last weekend. I think that might be the story. We shall see. I still have to finish rereading Passport to Magonia. Lets see what that shakes loose.

Peace.
J.

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Published inAutobiographicalBrain Farts and othersSpookiness