Friday, August 03, 2012

Another Kind of Language

About three years ago, I marked the occasion of John Keel's death by writing about some of the strange, semiotic links I have to the Mothman. There were so many of them, and these syncs seemed to pop up at such important turning points in my career, that I thought it was all worthy of a post. 

I'll recap here:
• My first full-time job was at New England Comics, whose first publishing venture was The Tick by Ben Edlund. The Tick's sidekick was Arthur, a literal moth-man. Edlund was later an executive producer on the short-lived Fox series Point Pleasant. 

• My first comic series was Halo: An Angel's Story, published by Sirius Entertainment. Soon after it was published I was called into a meeting with Crossroads Films, who were interested in developing a film project based on the comic. Crossroads was also a big ad production house and their star director was Mark Pellington, director of The Mothman Prophecies feature film.

• My lawyer at the time also represented Doug TenNapel, creator of the Earthworm Jim video game. Doug would also do a lot of comics work as well. His publisher was Top Shelf, also my publisher when I was an associate editor at Comic Book Artist magazine. Doug was the first to attempt a feature film based on the Mothman saga, which he shot in Point Pleasant.

• Last and most certainly not least, my editor for Our Gods Wear Spandex et al was actually from Point Pleasant, West Virginia and grew up immersed in first-hand Mothman accounts. Coincidentally, our first meeting took place on the same block where my demon neighbor Aleister Crowley began his notorious Amalantrah Working. A double coincidence since the publisher of Spandex was also Crowley's exclusive US publisher at the time.
Now, there is usually one clear takeaway with these kinds of compound synchronicities and that is to pay attention. It's an unusually reliable indicator that there is something waiting for you down the road these signs are pointing to. The problem is that I always misinterpreted the signal. I needed to undertake a deeper study of John Keel, not the Mothman itself.

Keel was a one-size-fits-all theorist when it came to all things paranormal. Ghosts, UFOs, psi, cryptids, gods and angels, you name it-- to Keel they were all Ultraterrestrials* in disguise. Keel's UTs were a transdimensional race of natural born troublemakers who could manipulate sound, light and matter and could exist at any point of their choosing along the electromagnetic spectrum.

You can't fault Keel for his energy or his dedication- he was doing his research the old, hard way-- poring through dusty old books and newspaper morgues. But in some ways all that effort seemed to instill a need to get the most bang for his paranormal buck-- everything he found was tossed into the Ultraterrestrial blender, regardless of credibility or even factual accuracy.

But all of a sudden there is a realization among a lot of people in the paranormal community--inspired in no small part by Andrew Collins' new book-- that maybe Keel and Vallee (and Kenneth Arnold and others as well) are right. Maybe UFOs aren't extrasolar, metallic spacecraft. Maybe it's another kind of intelligence that's been living among us all along.

Another kind of intelligence that speaks another kind of language.

My study of Keel has allowed to me to view some of the paranormal weirdness that's intruded into my life on occasion in an entirely new light. I generally don't like to talk about that stuff since it's entirely anecdotal and usually hinges on personal issues that require their own posts just to explain.

Needless to say, weirdness has followed me around my entire life. There are a number of incidents I can usually corroborate but cannot prove (the paranormal is by definition unprovable) and so haven't written about here. But at the same I don't need to argue their veracity because I see them all as signposts. I'm perfectly willing to accept the visionary aspect because in the end the question remains the same-- how did the event change the course of my life?

But if I were to explain all of these odd paranormal experiences to Keel, he wouldn't even blink.

He'd also offer his own theology of predestination as well. I happened to be born at the tail end of a major UFO flap and my expectant mother's recurring nightmares of a witch trying to break into the house while she was napping were no such thing, but simply garbled memories of encounters with a mischievous Ultraterrestrial. The fact that she later developed an owl obsession and that I would have my own (waking) encounter in the same exact spot several years later would be all the proof he needed.

What does fascinate me though is the lightning in the dining room during that encounter. Given the hyper-real nature of the encounter and my heart-pounding, wide awake state at the time I've developed a working theory on the event, which seems plausible to me given the fact that so many people taking ayahuasca and DMT have had nearly identical experiences.

In my fevered state the DMT switch was thrown and the great filter was turned off. I noticed something and something noticed me noticing it, in the words of the John Keel stand-in in Mothman Prophecies. So that something put on a little show to ensure I'd chalk it all up to hallucination. It reached into my mind, pulled out the racial memory of the Leprechaun and the gold coins and placed that in front of the plasma show I wasn't supposed to see.

Keel argues that geology has something to do with all of this, as does Collins. Does this intelligence (or intelligences) use the energy from geologic faults and whatnot to manifest itself in our dimension? Or do they feed on this energy the way we do carbon-based foods? If so, that might explain why Braintree- and northeastern Massachusetts in general-- is such a magnet for weirdness, since the area is rich in granite. Collins sites granite (New Hampshire, home of the Betty and Barney Hill abduction, is officially known as "The Granite State") as a particularly effective conductor/source for this plasma energy.

In a Keelian context, my 2010 sighting doesn't seem so anomalous, either. I've heard it said that places like swamps and graveyards are also gateways (graveyards are filled to the brim with granite, aren't they?). If that's true, then my neighborhood must be the paranormal Grand Central Station, since there are six cemeteries in walking distance of where I sit right now. As I said (on Mike's show?), the glowing figure initially seemed formless until it took shape as a small person. I'm just glad my dog was with me because I really would have thought I was losing it.

Speaking of cemeteries, I talked about how our little showbiz kid clan used to summer together in Gloucester†, in a cottage near Good Harbor Beach. What I didn't realize until reading Keel is that the cemetery where Mark would bring us on summer nights to hold séances (this was the 70s- séances and Ouija boards were all the rage) was on the eastern border of the old Babson farm, where one of the strangest paranormal events in Colonial American history took place.
Returning home one night, Ebenezer saw two men leaving his house, but when questioned, his wife and children had not seen anyone in or around the house. He quickly left and decided to follow them, but soon encountered difficulty: the mysterious men did not leave any tracks...

Two nights later, the harassment at the garrison took on a darker, more sinister tone. Again, Ebenezer Babson spotted the two figures, but this time they were armed. Later that evening, Babson and another man named John Brown saw three armed figures and attempted to shoot them. The attempt was unsuccessful however, as they could not aim properly due to the quick movements of the figures.

On July 14, 1692, six figures were seen by the men of the garrison. At first, the men did not want to leave the security of the fort, but later went in pursuit of the mysterious attackers. Soon, one of them was close enough for Babson to shoot, but his gun mysteriously misfired. 

What happened next was written in a letter to Cotton Mather by the Rev. John Emerson, a "rather excitable minister". He wrote, "Babson saw three men walk softly out of the swamp. Being within two or three rods of them he shot, and as soon as his gun went off they all fell down. Babson, then running to his supposed prey, cried out unto his companion....."he had killed three!" But coming about unto them they all rose up."
What fascinates me about ghosts is that like the overwhelming majority of UFO sightings, they are constructions of light. So if in fact any of this exists outside of the human imagination, Keel could very well be right-- this an intelligence composed of energy and not mass and expresses itself primarily as light, or plasma.

I would only add that it speaks to us, only the language is symbolic and synchronic, not verbal. I wonder now if my "swamp gas" story should be reinterpreted in that context. Let's wind the clock back to 1988...

My wife, my son (who was a baby at the time) and I were driving through the Great Swamp-- the very same Great Swamp immortalized by Orson Welles in his notorious 1939 War of the Worlds broadcast -- to go shopping at the now-defunct Pathmark superstore. It was a beautiful night and the skies were crystal clear.

But something caught my eye- I noticed three stars in formation over the tree line. They seemed to be a bit on the bright side, but nothing out of the ordinary. But a funny thing happened and kept happening-- every time we came to a clearing and were able to see the skies the position of the stars completely changed. 

My wife and I were very interested in astronomy at the time- we had a giant, glow in the dark star map on our bedroom wall, I was doing some backyard stargazing with a telescope, and even named one of our cats Boötes. So we weren't naifs when it came to the stars. 

In any event, it was pretty freaky but we lost sight of them as got deeper in the hilly woods just outside the Great Swamp Road.

We did our shopping and left the store. As I was putting away the groceries and as my wife was strapping the baby in his seat a man approached us. He was tall, bespectacled, extremely heavy, unshaven and badly dressed. He spoke with a light accent which sounded Eastern European. He said that he had some baby furniture he was trying to get rid of, as well as things like strollers. My back was up immediately- why did this guy have any of this stuff? I didn't see any kids with him. My 80s horror movie imagination began to run wild on that particular speculation.

He spoke mainly to my wife, who was the one who didn't grow up in Braintree and so was more trusting. I looked over and saw a middle-aged woman standing stiffly against an old Ford LTD station wagon, looking at us with her arms folded tightly across her chest. My bad feeling got worse. I placed myself between my wife and the stranger and told him thanks, but we were all set. He backed off and away and said if we need anything he lived on the corner of such and such a street and we could drop by anytime. (Note: my wife just told me he also offered to babysit, which sends chills down my spine just thinking about it).

I finished putting the groceries in the trunk and looked over at the Ford. The stranger was sitting there watching us intently while he smoked in the dark car. Even in the dark I could see the deep discomfort on his wife's face. We never saw either one of them again but the creepy feeling stayed with me a long time after. I realized just recently that this had in part inspired my "Pilot" nightmare (all of my worst nightmares are based in real-life events).

Now for almost a quarter-century, this was my "swamp gas" story, a weird conjunction of a will o' the wisp sighting and a disturbing encounter with a stranger in a dark, empty parking lot.The problem is that when I was looking up images of swamp gas ignitions for this piece, I couldn't find a single one that looked like the weird star formation we saw over the swamp. Nothing. Looking back I don't think we were looking at methane explosions at all.

I'm well aware that this is exactly the kind of story that would be presented as a (yet another) screen memory of an abduction encounter- a young family driving down a dark, deserted road, strange lights in the sky, an anomalous encounter with a predatory stranger speaking in a strange accent. 

It's almost Betty and Barney Hill Redux (all the more so since my wife's first name is also Elizabeth and "Hill" and "Knowles" are essentially synonymous) But there was nothing dreamy or vague about it- on the contrary I can still remember the adrenaline-induced crystal clarity of the confrontation.

But that's not to say there wasn't something deeply strange about it all. Those strange lights could well have been a communication, a warning that something was wrong, something bad was about to happen.

In another kind of language. 

Sync Log: While working on this piece I found this story in an X-Files comic collection I ordered last year and lost before I could read. Click to enlarge.

I've long believed that experience with the Paranormal is a lot like an acid trip. Your experience is going to reflect the expectations and baggage you bring into it. John Keel seemed to be a very bitter, cynical and deeply paranoid man, and people have long speculated that he had a particularly unpleasant encounter sometime in the 70s that colored his work for the rest of his life.

In a recent interview with Jeffrey Pritchett, Brett Raynes explained why Native American cultures don't share the same negative expectation of the paranormal that the mainstream culture brings to the table:
In the beginning of a Native American vision quest ceremony, the Trickster was generally expected, according to their belief system, to put in an appearance, to test these initiates to see if they were worthy to gain higher knowledge and wisdom. If they failed to discern the truth and see through the Trickster's web(s) of deception, then their unworthiness might leave them to progress no further up the ladder of truth.

However, if they could see through the surface illusions of what the Trickster was actually teaching, then they could proceed up the ladder a little further to discern higher truth and wisdom. Unfortunately, a lot of people let their ego get in the way and both their ego and their lack of discernment ability causes them to embrace only what their preconceived belief-oriented "comfort zone" would allow. Thus they're stuck at the bottom rung of the ladder, like an earth-bound ghost clinging to the Middle World.
And until we are willing to learn another kind of language, that's exactly where we will stay.

* I've come to revise my own related Elusive Companion Theory-- I originally stated that the companions we are dealing with were in fact the Igigi/Grigori of ancient accounts, now I believe that may be a case of mistaken identity on the part of our ancestors. I realize the temptation to put it all in one box, but there is the possibility that we are looking at two separate phenomena, separated by millennia. 

But the old school Trekker in me also likes to entertain bizarre ideas about the hypothetical ancient gods. What if they were in fact these discarnate transdimensionals taking human form? Maybe then those rituals of sending the Ka via starlight to be with the gods is a bit more literal than some might want to believe. Are these weird science and black projects the Elite are throwing king's ransoms at all about trying to follow in the ancient gods' footsteps and evolve into discarnate beings themselves? 

† I also spent a lot of time at xxx family's home when I was young, which was on the outskirts of the old Fort Devens and Shaker Country. I mention it because at the end of their street in a wooded area was one of those mysterious stone chambers.