The Soft Machine

I recently discussed the phenomena of strange lights on Seriah Azkath’s show “Where Did the Road Go?” where I once again brought up the oddities surrounding the human visual system and its relative “hackability”. To be more precise, the entire human sensorium is a rickety house that is not terribly hard to trick. I’ve talked about this on several shows, and it was a major talking point on my first appearance on Greg Bishop’s “Radio Misterioso”. I often reference Peter Watts’ brilliant 2006 sci-fi novel Blindsight since while ostensibly a first-contact story featuring space vampires, it’s also a deep examination of both consciousness and cognition. In the notes to Blindsight, Watts elaborates:

The Human sensorium is remarkably easy to hack; our visual system has been described as an improvised “bag of tricks”13 at best. Our sense organs acquire such fragmentary, imperfect input that the brain has to interpret their data using rules of probability rather than direct perception14. It doesn’t so much see the world as make an educated guess about it. As a result, “improbable” stimuli tends to go unprocessed at the conscious level, no matter how strong the input. We tend to simply ignore sights and sound that don’t fit with our worldview.

The point that Watts is communicating here is that the sensations we experience are not concerned with truth – only survival – and it processes those senses based on probability. Not the probability that a sensation is accurate, but the probability that it will allow us to live another day. Evolution is a haunted house, it has never been a perfect process and its primary concern is replication and fitness. It leaves behind ancient artifacts and is full of weirdness and one-offs.

Watts continues:

Sometimes electrical stimulation of the brain induces “alien hand syndrome”— the involuntary movement of the body against the will of the “person” allegedly in control29. Other times it provokes equally involuntary movements, which subjects nonetheless insist they “chose” to perform despite overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary30Put all this together with the fact that the body begins to act before the brain even “decides” to move31 (but see3233), and the whole concept of free will—despite the undeniable subjective feeling that it’s real—begins to look a teeny bit silly, even outside the influence of alien artefacts.

While electromagnetic stimulation is currently the most trendy approach to hacking the brain, it’s hardly the only one. Gross physical disturbances ranging from tumors34 to tamping irons35 can turn normal people into psychopaths and pedophiles (hence that new persona sprouting in Susan James’s head). Spirit possession and rapture can be induced through the sheer emotional bump-and-grind of religious rituals, using no invasive neurological tools at all (and not even necessarily any pharmacological ones)21. People can even develop a sense of ownership of body parts that aren’t theirs, can be convinced that a rubber hand is their real one36. Vision trumps propioreception: a prop limb, subtly manipulated, is enough to convince us that we’re doing one thing while in fact we’re doing something else entirely3738.

As Watts points out, your “will” to do anything can quite possibly be an illusion. If you decide to move your finger, studies on neural timing have shown that the electrical signal sent from your nervous system to your finger muscles actually happens before the decision making part of your brain fires up. He puts forth a very troubling question: “Are you actually behind the wheel, or do you just think you are?”

On the episode of “Where Did the Road Go?” I talked about how, on the base level, all that you see is a series of electrical signals sent to the visual processing areas of your brain via chemical processes initiated by photosensitive cells in your eyes. These signals are modulated by the brain and perceived by the “viewer”. This is where things get tricky and philosophical but that’s not my focus here. I put forth a speculative hypothesis that you could, theoretically, perform what is known in information security as a “Man-In-The-Middle Attack”, but on a human being’s senses.

A Man-In-The-Middle is basically where you put a point of access somewhere between a client and a server. This not only allows you to intercept all communications and analyze them, but also manipulate that data, inject your own changes, or possible reroute that to a third-party for exfiltration or impersonation. It’s an extremely dangerous attack, since on the surface it can appear transparent the client machine.

My hypothesis was that if you had a sufficiently advanced technology, or were able to operate outside the accepted norms of time and space, you could intercept the visual signal en route from the retina to the brain and manipulate it, either to scramble the information or inject your own images: in effect “hacking” the visual cortex. And it doesn’t have to stop there, all senses work basically the same way. You could make someone “hear”, “see”, “smell”, “taste”, or “feel” whatever you’d like them to.

In the episode, I suggested this could be accomplished via very fine control of electromagnetism. We know for a fact that this is possible in a crude fashion. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation has been shown in a laboratory by researchers like Michael Persinger to induce hallucinations, panic, and other altered states of consciousness.

However, I didn’t consider another possibility. Watts elaborates:

The latest tool in this arsenal is ultrasound: less invasive than electromagnetics, more precise than charismatic revival, it can be used to boot up brain activity39 without any of those pesky electrodes or magnetic hairnets. In Blindsight it serves as a convenient back door to explain why Rorschach‘s hallucinations persist even in the presence of Faraday shielding— but in the here and now, Sony has been renewing an annual patent for a machine which uses ultrasonics to implant “sensory experiences” directly into the brain40. They’re calling it an entertainment device with massive applications for online gaming. Uh huh. And if you can implant sights and sounds into someone’s head from a distance, why not implant political beliefs and the irresistable desire for a certain brand of beer while you’re at it?

The research that Watts is referencing is work on whether or not ultrasound can stimulate nerve tissue. Effectively,  by propagating an ultrasonic wave in the presence of a magnetic field, you can create particle motion in electrolytic tissues, inducing electric current via Lorentz forces. As the paper lays out, using this method as opposed to transcranial magnetic stimulation holds a few interesting practical advantages. For one, it has differing temporal characteristics:

Although the duration of a TMS pulse is typically on the order of a few tenths of a millisecond and the ultrasonic variation is on the order of microseconds or less (roughly the reciprocal of the ultrasonic frequency), considerable control over the shape of the ultrasonic waveform is in principle possible. For example, one can transmit an ultrasonic pulse train at essentially any repetition frequency or modulate a continuous ultrasonic wave in a variety of ways.

This would imply a greater degree of control – and perhaps manipulation – via ultrasound stimulation.

While thinking about this, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with the oft-reported “infrasound” talked about in Bigfoot folklore. Regardless of my own belief in Bigfoot, we do have to concede that there has been no solid evidence of its existence beyond anecdotal witness encounters. While there do appear to be recordings of vocalizations that seem to indicate sound in the infrasonic range, we cannot confirm that these are real. It is known though, for a fact, that infrasound is utilized by a wide variety of animals for both hunting and defense. Conversely, some animals (such as bats) use ultrasound for echolocation and cetaceans use ultrasound for long-distance communication. While I haven’t been able to find any suggestion that infrasound frequencies could be used in the same fashion as ultrasound theoretically can, the effects of certain infrasonic frequencies on humans has been studied quite a bit.

In a paper titled “Infrasound: Brief Review of Toxicological Literature” on the National Institute of Health’s website, they seem to indicate that infrasound would not be a great candidate for applications like the one we’re suggesting:

One argument against the feasibility of the use of infrasound in nonlethal weapons is that infrasound’s wavelengths (17 m and above) are so long that they spread out too rapidly to be focused (19).

19. Hecht. J. 1999. Not a sound idea. New Sci. March 20, 1999. Available at
http://trauma.cofa.unsw.edu.au/Infrasound/NewScientist01.html. Last accessed on September 16, 2001.

So while exposure to infrasound is known to induce general symptoms of nausea, fear, uneasiness, and possible hearing damage or changes in blood pressure, it would lack the necessary capabilities to perform the finely focused electrical manipulation I’m suggesting.

However, the idea of “ultrasound brain manipulation” devices got my brain spinning when I realized it sounded awfully familiar to something I’d heard before: “The Shaver Mystery”.

Most of you are probably familiar with The Shaver Mystery, Richard Sharpe Shaver’s Warning to Future Man and stories of underground civilizations filled with genetically engineered degenerate sorcerers who fed and tormented the unwitting humans living above-ground. If you’re not familiar, writer Nick Redfern did an excellent write-up on Mysterious Universe that you can read here.

Pertinent to our discussion above, Shaver described the evil underground Deros as having a technology that essentially describes our hypothetical manipulation device. From a website describing the contents of Shaver’s A Warning to Future Man:

According to Shaver, after the Deros had wiped out the underground community with which he was involved, he never again visited “the caves” in a physical sense, however he claimed that following this he began receiving “messages” via the “telaugs”, or electronically enhanced focused telepathic augmentation beams, claiming to be from the “Teros”.

While I’m personally a sucker for Hollow Earth stories of vast caverns filled with decaying ruins of a bygone age and haunted by the monstrous remnants of those declined civilizations, I’ve always been a bit wary of the “reality” of the Shaver mystery. In the most respectful way possible, it has always seemed to me that Shaver was possibly very, very ill and was being milked by Ray Palmer for stories. This is because this hypothetical device is a well known aspect of paranoid schizophrenia. Shaver isn’t the first person to be tormented via a machine that shoots telepathic beams to manipulate and torment the victim. This “Influencing Machine” is so well known that it has its own Wikipedia page. From said page:

The main effects of the influencing machine are the following:

  1. It makes the patient see pictures. When this is the case, the machine is generally a magic lantern or cinematograph. The pictures are seen on a single plane, on walls or window panes, and unlike typical visual hallucinations are not three-dimensional.
  2. It produces, as well as removes, thoughts and feelings by means of waves or rays or mysterious forces which the patient’s knowledge of physics is inadequate to explain. In such cases, the machine is often called a “suggestion-apparatus.” Its construction cannot be explained, but its function consists in the transmission or “draining off” of thoughts and feelings by one or several persecutors.
  3. It produces motor phenomena in the body, erections and seminal emissions, that are intended to deprive the patient of his male potency and weaken him. This is accomplished either by means of suggestion or by air-currents, electricity, magnetism, or X-rays.
  4. It creates sensations that in part cannot be described, because they are strange to the patient himself, and that in part are sensed as electrical, magnetic, or due to air-currents.
  5. It is also responsible for other occurrences in the patient’s body, such as cutaneous eruptions, abscesses, or other pathological processes.

One of the most famous victims was James Tilly Matthews, a tea broker from the early 1800s, who claimed that an evil criminal gang was telepathically tormenting him via what he called an “Air Loom”, an electrochemical device that could beam thoughts into his mind. He claimed that the gang was utilizing the Air Loom to target and influence various political figures of the time. More recently, there are parallels to Philip K. Dick’s VALIS, a supercomputer orbiting earth that sent him visions via “pink lasers”. And there’s Shaver, tormented by evil Deros doing exactly the same to him.

The device was even used as a fictional device in William S. Burroughs’ novel The Soft Machine – a machine that used a magnetic tape to control the population and keep them in check. The machine is then hijacked and used to destroy the civilization that had utilized it as a control mechanism. Burroughs writes:

Inexorably as the machine had controlled thought feeling and sensory impressions of the workers, the machine now gave the order to dismantle itself and kill the priests—I had the satisfaction of seeing the overseer pegged out in the field, his intestines perforated with hot planting sticks and crammed with corn—I broke out my camera gun and rushed the temple—This weapon takes and vibrates image to radio static—You see the priests were nothing but word and image, an old film
rolling on and on with dead actors

However, as people may know, I’m not a particularly materialist person. At the risk of sounding controversial, I’ve often thought about the delusions and hallucinations of schizophrenics and wondered if there’s perhaps some truth that can be found in them. Some of the esoteric and paranormal events people encounter could be described in similar terms to hallucinations suffered by people victim to schizophrenia. And sometimes these lines get awfully blurry.

Shaver claimed that he first physically encountered the remnant Teros, the benevolent citizens of the declined subterranean empire, before being tormented by the telepathic rays of the Deros. How many times have we heard this story before? Someone has a genuine anomalous encounter that then seems to latch onto them, changing them on a mental (and sometimes physical) level, completely derailing their old life and setting them on a new, far more unusual course.

The idea of subterranean kingdoms is as old as humanity. I’ll leave you with one very interesting rabbit hole I found.

In 1935, a series of serial films called The Phantom Empire were shown in American theaters. The film is primarily concerned with a group of modern humans coming into contact with a technologically advanced, ancient subterranean civilization. One of the actors, whose name is prominently feature on the poster, was Frankie DARRO.

d2f0efe3fe5d802b0f7307efedd5ea6aIs it possible that Richard Shaver saw this movie in theaters, just a few years before writing his A Warning to Future Man, and subconsciously got the name DERO from seeing the actor’s name on the poster, or in the title card? Did his paranoid delusions featuring an “Influencing Machine” get wrapped up in memories of a particularly interesting science fiction film featuring an ancient underground civilization in decline?

Let’s go one level deeper. There’s quite an interesting little note on the Wikipedia page for The Phantom Empire.

The idea for the plot came to writer Wallace MacDonald when he was under gas having a tooth extracted. (7)

7. Harmon 1972, pp. 61–62.

Assuming that this “gas” was nitrous oxide, I hardly need to comment on how nitrous has been used since its discovery as a gateway to altered states of consciousness. And so, the writer that perhaps inspired Shaver’s mysteries, came up with the idea for it while in an altered state.

“Curiouser and curiouser!”

 

More Podcast Appearances

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up that I’ve made a couple more appearances on Seriah Azkath’s “Where Did the Road Go”. Make sure you check out his show at http://www.wheredidtheroadgo.com and subscribe using your preferred podcast app. Make sure to rate and comment on his iTunes page if you’re so inclined!

You can also listen to the episodes above on Youtube, which I’ve linked. You can check out all my appearances by going to http://www.liminalroom.com/media

Thanks everyone!

Two Nightmares

Had my first panic inducing nightmares in quite some time last night. Thought I’d record them here because of how visceral they were and because I might like to analyze them later.

First dream involved me (in the body of a woman, possibly the first dream I’ve ever had with that scenario) walking around some house I didn’t recognize. In one hand I held an exactoknife. There was another lady with me, that I didn’t recognize. For some reason I was either shirtless, or my stomach was exposed, because I noticed this strange patch of extremely dry, itchy, scaly skin on my belly. I kept scratching this spot, and eventually used the flat of the exactoknife blade to attempt to scrape away the flakes of dead skin.

Using the blade to do this soothed the itching, but then I noticed that the spot had begun bleeding profusely. At first it was just an oozing, but that quickly grew into it almost spurting out of me. I started to panic and scream and went to a mirror in a bathroom. The woman I was with came with me, and from behind grabbed the skin around the patch and started squeezing. Thick red blood started gushing out of what had become a gaping hole in my stomach. I screamed as loud as I could and just watched in horror as I lost more and more blood. Eventually the blood stopped, and only a clear, thick slime squirted from the hole. Seeing this caused me to become faint and pass out, which meant that I woke up in the real world, breathing heavily and covered in sweat.

After shaking off the dream, I went back to sleep and had another nightmare, a more familiar one from when I was younger.

I dreamed that I was in a wooded area behind a house, in what felt like a rural place. The space behind the house gently sloped and then became a fairly steep embankment above a sort of drainage ditch. In the trees ahead of me, there were cast-iron frying pans and other heavy objects hanging from ropes, dangling from the limbs at head height. A group of teenage boys I was with decided to start running headfirst towards these objects and knocking themselves out, and I got the impression we were recording some sort of show like “Jackass”. Everyone was laughing at these guys hurting themselves, as I stood on a steep part of the embankment.

Looking down, I saw an enormous snake slither out from under the leaves and debris on the ground below me. It had a bright red triangular head, and I knew it was some sort of viper. It startled me, but since it was moving away from me I didn’t worry too much about it. But when I looked down, I saw that there were even more snakes surrounding my feet. Enormous cottonmouths and rattlesnakes were inches away from me and I started panicking. I wanted to get as far away as possible, back up the embankment and closer to the other people. But as I put my hands on the ground to try and crawl back up, the hill grew steeper and and slippery. I felt like I was about to fall back into the ditch, where countless other snakes loomed. I grabbed hold of a huge root sticking out of the dirt, only to realize too late that I was grabbing an enormous python. I felt its extremely smooth and muscular body start to contort, saw its head emerge from the debris and knew that it was going to rear back and strike me. At this moment, my fear peaked and I woke up again, hyperventilating.

The first dream confuses me the most. I’ve had body horror dreams before, but they generally always involve me as myself, and always involve something dental – teeth falling out, crumbling – because of my intense dental anxiety. I’ve never experienced that sort of dream in another person’s body. The snake dream is a variant on a theme of nightmare that I’ve had ever since I was a child, generally involving having to carefully navigate a ground covered in venomous snakes, who sometimes strike and bite me. The first dream I’ll definitely need to analyze further.

Dreams in the Witch House

So, I had a dream last night that may or may not have had some occult significance that I at least want to describe. It’s been a couple of weeks since I performed a lunar initiation in the style of Rufus Opus’s “Seven Spheres” method and I’ve been waiting for something like this to manifest.

In this dream, which was bordering on semi-lucid since in some fashion I knew I was dreaming, I was walking around the area of my old high school at night. The sky was clear and it was warm outside. As I approached a parking lot behind the school, some sort of apparition appeared to me. It looked like a cloaked and hooded human figure, but I could only see blackness where the face should be. It didn’t walk towards me, but more glided or seemed to be blinking in and out of the reality of the dream.

Instantly, I recognized whatever this was as a spirit and started asking questions. First, I asked its name, which now I can only remember as starting with a ‘Z’ and that I hadn’t observed it being part of any existing catalog or grimoire list.. I then asked it to show me its seal, which it did. In the sky above, I saw the spirit’s seal manifest in whitish-bluish light, creating sparks as it did so, but then instantly fading before I could remember what it looked like. I asked for it to continue building it over and over so I could get a better idea of its structure. Now that it was being built multiple times a second, flashing up there like a light fixture gone insane, I could see that it was effectively a pentagram, but with the lines of the star curved and bent in odd ways. Still though I felt the spirit wasn’t being honest and again I asked to see its seal. After that, the true seal was shown in the sky, this time in a solid format. It was unlike any I’d seen before in other lists of spirit seals. Now that I’m back in the waking world, I can only vaguely remember what it looked like, but I’ll try to reconstruct it tonight.

After this, I took a bundle of folders and papers from the back of a van that was nearby and started trying to draw the seal, but was unable to concentrate and accomplish the task. Eventually the dream started shifting away from me, and I ended up in another dreamplace and storyline.

Going beyond the grimoires and finding new spirits to document is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and it’s possible this dream could be a manifestation of that desire. Either way, it was strange and interesting. Hopefully I can reconstruct that seal. This whole experience is a strong reminder that I need to focus more on dream recall and achieving lucidity.

Into the In-Betweens

I remember my first sleep paralysis experience quite vividly. I was very young. It was probably sometime in 1994. “Sightings” had been on TV for a few years, and “The X-Files” had just premiered the year before. At the height of my hysterical fear that I would be abducted by aliens from my bedroom at night, I would typically go to bed and cover myself completely with my sheets, leaving only a small hole for myself to breathe through, convinced that if I hid myself and made myself small enough the Greys would leave me alone. I lived in nightly rapturous fear of seeing my bedroom door creak open slowly to reveal those huge black eyes peeking around the corner.

So, one of these dreadful nights I finally fell asleep, but was awoken by a feeling of indescribable terror. I was completely unable to move and it felt like my entire body was vibrating with electricity. A loud roar filled my room, and strange multi-colored lights were shining through my window and dancing across the walls. I tried to scream for my parents, but it came out a hoarse whisper, barely audible. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, that the whole universe was ending around me, collapsing in on itself. I managed to turn my eyes in their sockets enough to look at the large red numbers on my digital alarm clock to the left of my bed. It was 2:10 AM.

Then I saw my door was slightly ajar.

A small dark head peeked at me through the open door. I felt like my heart was going to launch itself into orbit. I continued to scream, but it was as if it were being absorbed by the atmosphere of my room, sucked into a vacuum from which no sound could escape. The figure stepped into full view. It was the size of a child, not much bigger than I was, and completely pitch black. This being seemed to be made of darkness itself, the blackness oozing and writhing around it in constant flux. I got the impression it was an living artifact of static, white noise slightly out of phase with everything around it, flickering and indistinct.

It moved towards me quickly, walking with a jangling gait that reminded me of an enormous marionette being guided by unseen hands. Finally it stood right next to my bed, to my right. I couldn’t turn my head to look at it, but I could still view it in my peripheral vision. I felt it lean in towards me as my panic peaked to levels I had never experienced in my short life. Not even the terror and anguish I had suffered at the hands of my physically abusive parents came close to this. I struggled to move, focusing every ounce of willpower I had into wiggling just a toe. “Just my toe,” I thought and I could get out of this.

And then, like a balloon filled to bursting, it popped. I had moved my toe. Everything was over. It wasn’t that I had woken up from a nightmare. I had had plenty of those and knew what those were like. This was something entirely new.

I looked at my digital alarm clock. It was 3:15 AM.

For years I lived with this experience and others like it. Every so often I would wake up, unable to move, screaming out whispers. Sometimes it would happen as I fell asleep, descending on me like a cloak of night. None were quite so visceral and eventful as that first encounter, but they were always terrifying. I would hear people talking in languages I didn’t speak, parties going on inside my house when everyone was asleep. Strange laughter, the opening and closing of doors, cabinets, glasses clinking. Women I couldn’t see with foreign accents asking me for help. Every occurrence became a race against time, I just had to move one little part of my body and it would be all over. My willpower was my salvation.

Occasionally the intruders would be back, but only in my extended senses. I never saw that shadow again, but I would feel during my attacks that something – or multiple things – were coming for me. Somehow I knew that dog-headed men were on their way, almost up the stairs now, ready to enter and annihilate me, eat me up or take me away to wherever they came from. I had dreams of barren plains where giant piles of trash fell from openings in the sky into enormous piles. They were all the things that people had lost or had gone missing. I found my old stuffed frog there amongst the pile. There were also people there. I felt I knew, deep down, this is where those things were coming from, this is where they would take me.

I got older and the attacks subsided a bit. Eventually friends and people I met through working at a summer camp introduced me formally to the occult and I began eagerly reading about what the books called “astral travel” in addition to all the regular material about demons, spirits, magic circles and rituals. But it was always the astral that drew me in. These books treated the astral travel experience as both dangerous and complicated, but included methods on how to achieve the state. At this point I still hadn’t made the connection between sleep paralysis and the out-of-body state, not having realized that I knew more about this than I thought I did.

A key experience helped me understand the link between the two, and how close to piercing the veil of my physical senses I was really getting. I was in high school by this point and had come home one afternoon, completely exhausted. My parents and little brother were still away so I was all alone. Feeling tired and wanting to catch a nap before everyone got home, I laid down on the couch and immediately started falling asleep. However, my body fell asleep faster than my mind, because I started feeling a paralysis attack coming on. The vibrations grew. Unable to break it, I became completely encapsulated in a humming envelope, prevented from moving an inch. I became intensely frightened that two men were coming up my driveway and were going to open the front door and kidnap me. Terrified, I tried “rocking” back and forth, in an attempt to roll to the floor and get away. The “rocking” worked, and I felt myself roll off the side of the couch and fall to the floor. But, my fall was odd: I was descending as slowly as a feather, drifting along through the few feet that separated the couch from the floor as if I were made of mist. I touched the floor and felt myself “bounce” off it gently.

Then I was back on the couch. I sat bolt upright, completely confused by what had just happened. Had I . . . fallen out of my body? I knew that I had felt myself roll off the couch, but then I obviously hadn’t. It wasn’t long after that experience that I realized the paralysis state was intimately connected with the exit from the body that I had been reading about. I kept studying, and resolved to completely leave my physical body with intent and direction.

Finally, after practicing for weeks at night, meditating in bed on my back, trying to feel a way to get out of my physical form, I found it. The books I had been reading offered a number of “exit strategies”. One that I had tried – to no avail – was to visualize myself climbing an imaginary rope out of my body and into the air. This never quite worked out, I just couldn’t get the feeling of it down. I remembered my earlier experience on the couch and the “rocking” motion that had eventually caused a spontaneous OBE. I imagined that I was falling through my bed, and then rising back up through myself into the air. I tried to feel this happening to me, as if I were on a roller coaster or some carnival ride. Eventually I was able to mentally get into it so effectively that it really did feel like my stomach was turning from the experience.

Then, on one of these “upswings” it felt like my hands were peeling off a large sticky counter top. I went with the feeling, completely freeing my arms from the glue and then lifting my body as well. I felt the whole universe shaking violently, as if I were coming apart. I tried to open my “eyes” and could see, but just barely. It was like opening them for the first time: Everything was fuzzy and gray and washed out. But I could see! I realized I was floating a few feet above my bed, but didn’t dare look at my body. Excitement raced through me as I realized what I had accomplished. I knew immediately what I wanted to do and moved, stumbling and feeling along the floor as if I were crawling on newborn legs, to my closed bedroom door. I had read about how you could simply pass through matter like a ghost in this state, and I wanted to experience this unique sensation.

But, when I tried to “phase” through the door, I hit it and stopped. “What?” I asked myself. I thought I was out-of-body? What’s the big deal here? I “touched” the door again with my misty pseudopodial “hands”. I could feel the wood, firm and hard. But, when I relaxed and just let myself “melt”, my pseudopods went right through it – along with the rest of me.

I use these terms in parentheses because there’s no easy way to translate this experience to our waking, material world. Much like in “The Matrix” when Morpheus points out to Neo that it’s not air he’s breathing, you have to come to terms with the fact that this liminal, non-physical form does not have analogues to your flesh. You don’t have hands, you don’t have feet, you don’t have eyes. None of these things translate anymore, and the sooner you let them go the better.

I found myself in my house’s hallway and floated through the open door of my parents’ bedroom. I saw my mother and father asleep in their bed, illuminated by the moonlight filtering in through the bedroom window. Everything seemed as real as if I were awake. My vision had cleared and I could see almost as clearly as I could in my waking body. Wanting to still prove to myself that this was happening, I “jumped” on my parents’ bed and started trying to wake my mother up. I don’t know how I thought I could accomplish this, but in my mind I was yelling for her to “wake up!” and “shaking” the bed.

Her eyes shot open.

She stared right into me and she looked terrified. I became intensely embarrassed and scared that I had done something awful. I felt myself snap back into my room as if I were a rubber band stretched out that had been let loose. I “woke” up and sat up in bed, listening carefully for any noise coming from my parents’ room, scared stiff that I had angered them. I didn’t hear anything and soon laid back down, closed my eyes and fell asleep, still brimming with excitement from these first, hesitant steps into the unknown. The next day I asked my mother about the night before, not giving details but inquiring if I had somehow woken her. She said no. To this day I’ll never know if she really woke up or not, but I was sure I had made a real breakthrough in my attempts to move outside my physical form.

The next time I accomplished the out-of-body state, I decided to explore outside. I floated up towards the ceiling of my room and relaxed, drifting right through the plaster and insulation and roof beams into the clear night sky. I kept drifting up and up, wanting to soar through the evening like a witch on her broomstick. The only issue was, I looked down.

It’s easy to think that you’re ready to fly outside of the confines and contexts of a plane or helicopter, but the first time you’re really up there all alone, you learn how you really feel about the situation. It’s disorienting to be just above the trees and like Wile E. Coyote not realizing he’s in the air until the Roadrunner points it out to him, once I noticed how high I was up I panicked and started descending. Not quickly, as if I were falling, but slowly and gently. It was as if I were a balloon that had begun to deflate. In a sense, I don’t think that’s an entirely metaphorical analogy for the situation. It was as if my confidence and intent were the forces keeping me aloft. I could fly because I believed I could fly. Once I lost that magic feather, Dumbo started plummeting. I lost control of the out-of-body state and snapped back into my body.

Another time I went out-of-body, everything felt so real that I wasn’t quite sure if I hadn’t just woken up and got out of bed. It had been early morning, and I had suffered a sleep paralysis attack upon awakening. I had since learned that I could transition those attacks into an out-of-body experience if I so pleased and had done just that. I floated down my hallway and into the kitchen. I was so confused by the clarity of the experience that I thought it was an aborted attempt. There was a noise from behind me and I watched my little brother walk into the kitchen, pour himself a glass of orange juice, drink it and return to his bedroom. Figuring this attempt a bust, but still sensing something was “off” about the world around me, I opened (as if I were in the flesh!) the backdoor and went into our backyard. I could feel the dew on the grass wetting my “feet”. Deciding to give it the old college try (and because no one was watching) I leapt into the air, attempting to take off like Superman. Either it would work, or it wouldn’t work and I would feel extremely silly.

I shot off into the sky like a rocket. I watched the trees in my backyard shrink to the size of toothpicks and could see for miles around me. Not having expected this, my stomach ate my heart and in this panicked moment I snapped right back to my body.

It took several years of experiences to really get the hang of moving in the out-of-body state. One particular experience I remember is that while staying the night at a friend’s house, I felt an attack coming on and transitioned it into an OBE, floating up to the ceiling and through the roof. By this time I had flown enough to get a feel for it and felt very comfortable gliding just a few feet off the ground, moving like a silent, ghostly manta ray through the humid night. Pretty soon I left what I call the “local” area – the area around your current environment – and had bled off into what I call the “in-betweens“: the dreamlands, the over-there, the other sky, or if you prefer: The astral. I found myself in what I interpreted as a park. It was very dark, but there were a few streetlamps here and there, dim but providing some light to see by. Through the park ran a blacktop road along which drifted a few antique cars, silently moving through the night without a driver I could see and with no headlamps on. As I explored this place, I noticed – to my surprise – a middle-aged looking man sitting on a bench. I froze, curious if he could see me or not. After a moment I started moving towards him.

He turned in my direction with a look of utter fear and panic on his face. I realized quickly: “He can see me!”

“Hey!” I shouted.

Then he did something I never expected: Without saying a word, he turned and launched into the night sky.

“He’s like me!” I realized. “I have to talk to him!”

I immediately gave chase. We flew through the night, me just barely keeping up with him. I kept grasping for his leg. He was right there. I wanted so badly just to grab him, stop him, tell him it’s okay and that I’m not going to hurt him and I just have a ton of questions. Sir! Please stop! I have so many questions!

But it was to no avail. I lost him, he was just faster than me. Utterly lost in the in-betweens, I let myself snap back to my body, feeling dejected.

These are just a handful of experiences I’ve had over the years. Working in the out-of-body state, exploring the in-betweens, trying to find out what’s real and what is fiction has taken up a large portion of my childhood, teen years and now adult life.

Everyone can have these experiences, you don’t need to be a sufferer of sleep paralysis or even believe in the occult. This is why I dislike the term “astral” and all the spiritual baggage that word brings with it. I tend to think most people have these experiences naturally – probably all the time – and either write them off as hallucinations or dreams. But I’m here to tell you: they’re real, they can be explored. Even today, I’m still trying to plumb the depths of the human mind, figure out protocols to make the OBE state more reliable to achieve, explore the dreamlands that we create and that have always existed, hidden yet within reach, somewhere in-between here and there.

You Can Call Me Al

The story of Albert K. Bender is a fascinating entry in the annals of UFO lore and someone I’ve become intensely interested in lately. Perhaps it’s a sense of kinship. By all accounts, Albert’s interests were macabre and he was a huge fan of horror movies. He decorated his room in his stepfather’s attic with scenes from spooky films and Halloween decorations. Bender delighted in creeping out people who came over with ghost stories and uncomfortable tales about how he “got a real kick” out of removing some dead bodies from the water when he was stationed in Virginia during his service in the Air Force. In so many ways he reminds me of myself in my late teens – wanting to stand out, shock at any costs.

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Bender also had an interest in the occult. While never specifying the name of the works he was studying at the time, he admitted reading books on “black magic”. This interest and the subsequent events Bender unwittingly unleashed upon himself will become important later.

In 1952 Bender created the International Flying Saucer Bureau, a newsletter and club created to investigate the flying saucer phenomena. The IFSB is particularly important in the folklore of Ufology for being the first such civilian organization dedicated to the topic. Over the course of that year he started experiencing typical Keelian Men in Black activity. He received strange phone calls with weird noises and veiled threats to drop the topic of UFOs. At one point he went up to his attic “Chamber of Horrors” and saw a blue glow emanating from under his door. When he checks inside he found his records disturbed and a strong smell of sulfur in the air.

Later, Albert had a very unique encounter in a movie theater. Initially completely alone in the empty theater, he gets the impression that someone was watching him and when he turned he saw a shadowy figure staring at him with glowing eyes. He became faint and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened his eyes, the figure had disappeared. However, shortly afterwards it reappeared, causing Bender to become dizzy and disoriented. This frightened Bender so much he fled the movie theater. As he made his way home, he once more was confronted by this ominous figure while he was window shopping along the main street. This episode is uniquely curious to me for its subtle homosexual undertones. Was this whole experience simply someone trying to pick up the nerdy young Bender in a lonely theater, and he overlaid the supernatural onto it as a way of coping? Or, perhaps there was something stranger going on and Bender truly was tormented by some ominous shadowy being. There’s certainly no lack of sexual undertones in ufological lore and this oozes queer panic.

Finally, before the fated “World Contact Day” experience, Bender once more was witness to a materialization of some sort of entity in his attic room, apparently during a meeting between members of the IFSB. Again, Bender saw the same bluish light from his bedroom and when he investigates, he saw a bright ball of bluish light with what looked like a body in the center. Bender called out to the entity but it faded away, leaving behind a temporary after image of two glowing eyes. Again, the stench of sulfur filled the room. Bender rejoined his comrades and didn’t speak of this episode, for fear of ridicule.

This brings us to the real core of the story: World Contact Day. Apparently Bender and a few of his IFSB buddies had decided to “send a telepathic message to the visitors from space” and March 15th was picked as the day of communication. It was coordinated amongst members of the IFSB that the message was to go out on March 15, 1953 at 6 p.m EST exactly, and they were all to attempt contact simultaneously. Someone with more astrological knowledge than myself will have to elucidate if there is any significance to this date. Several members of the group scoffed at this outrageous idea, with a familiar hesitation towards anything smelling faintly of the occult that we still see today in modern Ufology. Albert was not dissauded.

The wording of this telepathic message to the “visitors” should sound very familiar to anyone who’s studied grimoires or Solomonic magic:

Calling occupants of interplanetary craft! Calling occupants of interplanetary craft that have been observing our planet EARTH. We of IFSB wish to make contact with you. We are your friends, and would like you to make an appearance here on EARTH. Your presence before us will be welcomed with the utmost friendship. We will do all in our power to promote mutual understanding between your people and the people of EARTH. Please come in peace and help us in our EARTHLY problems. Give us some sign that you have received our message. Be responsible for creating a miracle here on our planet to wake up the ignorant ones to reality. Let us hear from you. We are your friends.

Compare that to the “Conjuration To Call Forth Any of the Aforesaid Spirits” from the Lesser Key of Solomon:

I DO invocate and conjure thee, O Spirit, N.; and being with power armed from the SUPREME MAJESTY, I do strongly command thee, by BERALANENSIS, BALDACHIENSIS, PAUMACHIA, and APOLOGIAE SEDES; by the most Powerful Princes, Genii, Liachidæ, and Ministers of the Tartarean Abode; and by the Chief Prince of the Seat of Apologia in the Ninth Legion, I do invoke thee, and by invocating conjure thee. And being armed with power from the SUPREME MAJESTY, I do strongly command thee, by Him Who spake and it was done, and unto whom all creatures be obedient. Also I, being made after the image of GOD, endued with power from GOD and created according unto His will, do exorcise thee by that most mighty and powerful name of GOD, EL, strong and wonderful; O thou Spirit N. And I command thee and Him who spake the Word and His FIAT was accomplished, and by all the names of God. Also by the names ADONAI, EL, ELOHIM, ELOHI, EHYEH, ASHER EHYEH, ZABAOTH, ELION, IAH, TETRAGRAMMATON, SHADDAI, LORD GOD MOST HIGH, I do exorcise thee and do powerfully command thee, O thou Spirit N., that thou dost forthwith appear unto me here before this Circle in a fair human shape, without any deformity or tortuosity. And by this ineffable name, TETRAGRAMMATON IEHOVAH, do I command thee, at the which being heard the elements are overthrown, the air is shaken, the sea runneth back, the fire is quenched, the earth trembleth, and all the hosts of the celestials, terrestrials, and infernals, do tremble together, and are troubled and confounded. Wherefore come thou, O Spirit N., forthwith, and without delay, from any or all parts of the world wherever thou mayest be, and make rational answers unto all things that I shall demand of thee. Come thou peaceably, visibly, and affably, now, and without delay, manifesting that which I shall desire. For thou art conjured by the name of the LIVING and TRUE GOD, HELIOREN, wherefore fulfil thou my commands, and persist thou therein unto the end, and according unto mine interest, visibly and affably speaking unto me with a voice clear and intelligible without any ambiguity.

The structure is remarkably similar. Eerily so. Since Albert passed away in March of 2016, we’ll never truly know if this was intentional or not, but I suspect it was largely subliminal and guided by his knowledge of occult works. There is a call to appear, followed by a greeting and a desire to establish friendly relations, and then a command to create a “miracle on earth”. While wrapped in modern language, the spirit of the thing remains.

That evening, Albert went to his room at 6 p.m., turned out the lights, got into bed, repeated this conjuration three times and then experienced what researchers would commonly call an Out-of-Body Experience or OBE. He describes smelling that same sulfur stench and having the feeling of being paralyzed, his brain filled with flashing blue lights and then finding himself floating three feet above his body.

He was then confronted by a shadowy figure constructed of yellow mist with a voice commanding him to discontinue his investigations into the “mysteries of the universe.” I find this turn of phrase particularly fascinating. The entity or spirit that Bender conjured wasn’t telling him to stop researching flying saucers, per se, but existence itself. It was trying to dissuade him from further occult studies, acting as a gatekeeper to further knowledge. This is another familiar subject to students of the occult and should ring several bells.

It’s prudent at this point to describe the entity often referred to the Dweller on the Threshold in esoteric literature. From Glamour: A World Problem p.22 and p.39:

The Dweller on the Threshold is illusion-glamour-maya, as realized by the physical brain and recognized as that which must be overcome. It is the bewildering thoughtform with which the disciple is confronted, when he seeks to pierce through the accumulated glamours of the ages, and find his true home in the place of light.

The Dweller on the Threshold does not emerge out of the fog of illusion and glamour, until the disciple is nearing the Gates of Life. Only when he can catch dim glimpses of the Portal of Initiation and an occasional flash of Light from the Angel of the Presence, Who stands waiting beside that door, can he come to grips with the principle of duality, which is embodied for him in the Dweller and the Angel. . . .

And from Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II,  p. 312

The Dweller on the Threshold is oft regarded as a disaster, as a horror to be avoided, and as a final and culminating evil. I would here remind you, nevertheless, that the Dweller is ‘one who stands before the gate of God’, who dwells in the shadow of the portal of initiation, and who faces the Angel of the Presence open-eyed, as the ancient Scriptures call it.

All of the entity contact events of the 1952 – the strange being in the movie theater, the twice materialized glowing entity in Bender’s room and now this outright confrontation – can be seen as manifestations of the Dweller on the Threshold, at least as understood by students of the occult. This initiatory event and its conclusion is seen as a test for the magician to pass metaphysically from one side “to the other” and give up their fear and ego that holds them back. Bender was quite obviously not prepared for this event. He was a dabbler, and boy was he in way too fucking deep.

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It brings to mind Grant Morrison’s description of his first successful conjuration and its consequences.

From “One Nervous System’s Passage Through Time”: GRANT MORRISON interviewed by Jay Babcock (Arthur No. 12/Sept 2004):

GM: I spent 25 years doing magic because I didn’t believe Aleister Crowley when he said a demon would appear if I performed certain operations. And so I did the operations to prove him wrong, and a fucking demon appeared! [laughs] So, from the age of 19 I’ve had to deal with the fact that the demon had actually appeared, and that Crowley was saying something that now made sense experientially.

Which demon was it?

GM: I dunno, it had a flaming lion’s head, and it said “I am neither North nor South” and I shat myself. I read up on it since but I can’t remember the name offhand. I think it was more of an angel, to be honest. But the bottom line is at age 19, being quite skeptical, I discovered it worked. And I had to deal with that, to accommodate that view of the world.

This resonates with me even further given that I’ve had my first successful contact with an entity recently, in which I believe I conversed with the demon Oriens after performing the Invocation of the Four Kings. Like Bender, like Morrison, I didn’t think anyone – or more properly, anything – would actually show up. Turns out they do, and they can eat you alive if you’re not careful. Bender found this out the hard way when his visitors showed up once again.

Having seemingly failed his initiatory experience by being too scared to move past the Dweller, shunned by his fellow IFSB members when he tried to tell him his fantastic encounter, Bender was in an extremely vulnerable and lonely position. Juicy psychic meat for spirits who smelled blood in the etheric water.

After a vacation in July 1953, Bender returned once more to the smell of sulfur in his attic room. As he got ready for bed, he felt faint and underwent another sudden bout of sleep paralysis. Now he was confronted with three entities, more distinct and clear this time and wearing black clerical outfits and Homburg hats. Interestingly, they were floating several feet off the floor.

One only need to search the phrase “hatman” to find that this archetype of a shadowy figure wearing a hat is an extremely common one and currently well within the realm of popular consciousness. In particular I’m reminded of a scene from the wonderful 2015 documentary about sleep paralysis, “The Nightmare”, in which a man experiences and out-of-body experience where he is confronted by a shadowy figure in a hat and his two cronies who order him back into his body, cutting him off from experimentation and further exploration of the out-of-body state.

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These beings further tormented Albert, telling him that they would reveal hidden knowledge to him because they knew that no one would believe his story. They handed him a small metal coin or disk and provide him with a word of power (Kandik) that he could use to call them using a radio. While I can’t come up with a direct parallel between this and fairy lore, the giving of some sort of talisman seems awfully familiar from a folkloric sense. There are shades of EVP here as well, using a technological device like a radio to act as a transceiver from the spirit world to our physical realm.

Bender, still too damn curious for his own good, attempted this contact and once again experienced an OBE that manifested into what seemed to be a full-blown abduction experience in which he was taken to a “spaceship” and filled full of more of this secret knowledge, most of it sounding awfully familiar to those who’ve studied the contactees. Some of the information is reminiscient of the Shaver mystery, involving the visitors living inside the “Hollow Earth” and oddly enough paints the visitors in an almost predatory light. They describe to Bender how they can take over the minds of humans and use them to infiltrate society, sometimes murdering and replacing them as they see fit. This stands in strange contrast to the Adamsky style Space Brothers that preached a doctrine of universal love and peace. I wonder if Bender’s obsession with the darker aspects of life, the occult, and horror movies didn’t influence his contextualization of these encounters.

One extremely curious tidbit he was given was about the Milky Way galaxy itself. One of the beings talked about the “Great Central Stillness” at the center of the galaxy, which was “so powerful that you could not even approach it by light years; for if you did you would immediately be destroyed. It is the creator of all of us, and more families of planets are constantly being formed and thrown off into orbits.” This is astounding for several reasons.

If Albert was given this information in 1953, it predates the actual location of the Galactic Center by a year. Joseph Lade Pawsey and his team didn’t discover the true Galactic Center until 1954 when they were able to pinpoint an extremely powerful belt of radio emissions in Sagittarius, 32 degrees south-west of what was thought to be the true center at the time.

Even more fantastic, the visitor’s description of the Galactic Center as a “Great Central Stillness” so powerful that even getting within light years of it would destroy the observer seems incredibly, almost unbelievably close to a description of a supermassive black hole. A supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy was not even hypothesized to exist until Donald Lynden-Bell and Martin Rees put forth the idea in 1971. The first real indications that they could be right were not confirmed until early 1974. Flying Saucers and the Three Men was published in 1963, predating the work of Lynden-Bell and Rees by eleven years.

General relativity and the work of Karl Schwarzschild had predicted the existence of singularities as early as 1915, it wasn’t until 1939 that Robert Oppenheimer and others predicted that a neutron star above the Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff limit would collapse. This is before the term “black hole” was even coined – that honor goes to a student of John Wheeler in 1967 – and these collapsed stars were referred to as “frozen stars.” The similarity to “frozen star” and “Great Central Stillness” is chilling. Even so, the idea of black holes existing in the popular consciousness didn’t exist until the late 1960s. But here was Bender being told by star beings in 1953 about the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Were these entities providing actual truthful information to Bender, sandwiched between all of the obvious lies and fantasy?

Further out-of-body adventures were had by Bender after this event, including a trip to a supposed alien base under Antarctica – shades of the Travis Walton abduction and other underground bases so popular in saucer lore – where he met the nine foot tall leader of the visitor race who offered him information about Earth’s moon that eerily corroborates information observed later by renowned psychic Ingo Swann and published in his fantastic book Penetration. It’s obvious at this point that Bender was very, very deep into the land of the fae and it’s at this point that he completely dropped the subject of UFOs and as Nick Redfern so succinctly puts it, “fled Ufology.”

There he remained in exile until coming briefly out of retirement in 1963 to publish Flying Saucers and the Three Men, his own account of his story as compared to the version Gray Barker laid out in his work They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. Barker’s work is considered a seminal part of Ufological lore and cemented the pop culture image of the so-called Men In Black up until this day, even though the actual entities Bender described meeting were far different from Barker’s government agents.

Bender moved to Los Angeles, completely dropped the topic of UFOs and got very into music. He ended up outliving most of his contemporaries and one dares to wonder if his flight from the subject saved his life. One of the dangers of both magic and paranormal research is obsession, becoming so entrenched in your topic that you lose all grounding and context. It has been the sickness that has plagued some of the most brilliant minds of the subject and it seems that at the absolute depths of his own obsession, Bender was able to pull himself out. Perhaps his story can be both a stark warning about the dangers of these subjects and a reminder that sometimes it’s best just to drop it all and walk away.

From the perspective of the Fortean meta narrative, Bender’s story is a fascinating look at the intersection of the occult and ufology, two topics that are more intrinsically linked than most people realize or will care to admit. The parallels are there, for anyone to see, if we will just put our prejudices aside and look at the data. I’m not saying in any way that aliens are “demons” or anything of the sort. What I’m saying is that perhaps “demons” and “aliens” are both contextualizations created by our interactions with whatever lies beneath the masks of culture.

There’s a quote by Bender I’d like to leave you with. I’d like you to remember it whenever someone has a strange story to tell you.

“It is a lonely position you occupy when you have looked into the fantastic, and there is nobody to believe you have actually done so.”

References

Thy Fearful Geometry

It’s been a while since I posted to the site! Apologies, but I’ve been researching and working on a longer project that I’m not quite ready to reveal yet. I do have several items to post here, including a book review of Ryan Sprague’s wonderful Somewhere in the Skies and while I’m putting the finishing touches on that, I thought I’d tell you all a little bit more about my own experiences. I know how popular personal experiences are and so far I haven’t posted about them publicly anywhere, preferring to keep them in the company of friends. So, here we go, wish me luck.

I can’t promise that these two experiences will connect any dots. Both of them fit no patterns that I’m aware of. I’m not aware of any reports of similar experiences. If other people have encountered similar manifestations, I encourage them to contact me and let me know.

The first encounter is my singular UFO sighting. As I’ve mentioned, I had an interest in UFOs since I was a small child. I was raised on shows like Unsolved Mysteries and “The X-Files”. However, my first (and so far only) UFO experience didn’t fit the mold of any report I had encountered previously.

The sighting happened late fall 2002, when I was in my junior year of high school. At the time I was living in Alabama, in the town that I was born and raised in. By that time in my life most of my friends owned cars (I wasn’t so lucky) and we spent many nights just cruising around, or going to the abandoned places late at night where we’d talk and my friends would smoke illicit cigarettes.

One of those evenings, I’d gone to the band practice field near the high school with my then girlfriend, my friend K, and his girlfriend. The moon was full and high in the sky. We parked the car and the girls walked off together into the dark towards the wood line. K and myself walked in another direction into the middle of the practice field. The night was clear and cold. You could see dew reflecting the moonlight, condensed on the blades of grass. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember seeing something strange when I looked up towards the moon. Just below the moon, there was a tiny light, no more than a pinprick. It was solid white and did not flicker like a star. I would have just thought it was a star, had it not been dipping and diving, moving in figure eights around the bottom-right half of the moon.

“Do you see that?” I asked K.

“Yeah, I do, what is that?” he replied.

The impression it gave me was that the moon was an immense porch light and this luminous bead was a fly, buzzing around the light just like an insect would on a summer night. We both watched it for several minutes. I did not feel scared or even awed, just strangely confused. I started rationalizing immediately, not wanting to accept I was seeing something anomalous, despite my decade of desire for just that.

“It must be a star whose light is being bent by the gravitational field of the moon,” I suggested.

K seemed satisfied with this explanation. I was, after all, the kid who wanted to major in physics and go to Cal Tech. I was constantly walking around with books like Michio Kaku’s Hyperspace and trying to explain – in my limited teenage mind – the concepts of string theory to my friends. They rarely cared. In retrospect, this explanation makes no sense at all. The moon does not have a gravitational field strong enough to warp light to that degree; even if it did, that didn’t account for the buzzing movement.

The girls walked back over to where K and I were standing. We didn’t point out the object to them. Bored and deciding to call it a night, we went back to the car. The tiny white light was still buzzing around the moon as we pulled away and left it alone, out there. It was weeks before I came to the conclusion we had seen something anomalous in the sky. It still doesn’t fit into any other UFO report I’ve read or heard about.

The other experience, one that remains much stranger, happened when I was a few years younger. I wish I remembered my actual age, but so many times when I think back to my youth I exist in this perpetual fifth to sixth grade, eleven year old self image. I’ve never been very good at remembering my age during specific events, instead remembering things such as sights, smells and sounds much more vividly. So, I’ll ask that you forgive me for not remembering the exact year that this happened. I seem to remember it being after age eleven, but before – let’s say – age fifteen.

I had been in the Boy Scouts for a while then and loved the outdoors. Often, my dad would take my little brother and myself up into the mountains of Cheaha State Park in northern Alabama and we’d hike up a ways on the Pinhoti Trail, a massive hiking trail that crosses through Cheaha but goes from southern Alabama well into Northern Georgia, following the Appalachian Mountains.

It was fall. I remember the intense colors of the leaves: the red of the maples, the yellow of the sweetgum trees. At this point in my life I was an enthusiastic young adventurer; I loved being in the woods alone and hiking in front of the group, thinking of myself as a trailblazer or ranger. It’s no accident that I was reading through The Lord of the Rings at that age. It would be years before the movies, but even back then I wanted to be just like Aragorn, scouting the path for my comrades. During this hike with my little brother and dad, I was doing just that. I had walked faster than them all and was maybe five minutes ahead. In the section of the Pinhoti that traverses Cheaha it mostly winds around steep, rocky hills covered in trees with hollows and creeks below you. It was while coming around a bend in the trail I encountered something that I still can’t explain.

The first thing I saw on the other side of the hill, directly in front of me, were two enormous birds huddled together. They immediately startled and took wing, flying over my head and up, past the canopy and above the treeline. I believe they were turkey vultures: they were dark colored with whitish wings and bald heads. Only, at least in my memory, they were huge, much bigger than pictures of turkey vultures I’ve seen. Mind you, they weren’t fantastically large, but more the size of an eagle than a turkey vulture. Perhaps my being a smaller person then, combined with how much they startled me, contributes to my remembering them as so gigantic. However, it wasn’t the birds that truly scared me. As I stood there, heart racing from being nearly bowled over by two large birds, I started hearing a faint clanking sound coming from the hollow below me.

It sounded like someone was banging metal together down there, or a piece of machinery was cranking to life. Peering to see what was causing the noise, I saw something so bizarre that I still can’t put it into words that truly describe it. The best I can do is this:  I saw white and black polygons, roughly in the shape of a large cat, running around in the hollow. It was like I was seeing living geometry; something taken from a computer game and placed in real life. Because the black and white polygons were alternating, I immediately thought of a tiger’s stripes. When this collection of geometric figures moved, it seemed to be disturbing the leaves on the ground, and produced the metallic clanking sound I was hearing. It didn’t seem to be running towards me, but rather just moving around randomly.

I only stared at it for a second or two. Immediately my brain dumped adrenaline and every inch of my mind screamed at me to run away as fast as I could manage. I listened and that’s what I did: dashing out of there back towards my family as fast as I could. I was truly terrified. While running I was sure it was right behind me, chasing me down. My blood pounded in my ears and all I could hear were my footfalls. I tripped and fell, hurting my right ankle badly. Fighting through the pain, I jumped back up and limply hopped as quickly as possible, the adrenaline taking care of most of the pain.

Eventually I got back to my dad and little brother, who seemed startled to see me limping towards them, white as a ghost. I started babbling about what I saw, but my dad only laughed it off, teasing me about being scared by a couple of turkey vultures. I tried to get them to go back to the car, but he refused. Maybe he really did think I was just being imaginative. I was a moody child, prone to fantasy and a fan of horror and sci-fi movies, so he probably thought I was just making things up.

So, towards this indescribable horror we marched. And sure enough, when we got to the same bend in the trail, there was nothing. This just resulted in even more teasing. I shut up about what I saw and just hiked with them the rest of the way. Eventually it started getting dark so we headed back towards where we’d parked. We walked back without further incident, got in his pickup truck and drove back home.

To this day, he still teases me about the time I got spooked by the turkey vultures. I still think about seeing living geometry, running around and around in a hollow.

I have no answers about these two experiences. They were both exceedingly strange and I’ve never come close to being able to pick them apart. Mostly, these events are the reasons I never judge the reports of experiencers, preferring to take them at face value and examine them from a phenomenological standpoint. I also don’t judge those who believe that all this stuff is bogus – the product of fantasy, misidentification and charlatans. It’s difficult to break out of the materialist paradigm without something anomalous placing strain on the structure, creating cracks that show you the cosmos are far more strange than you could imagine. These events, combined with my out-of-body experiences, helped tear down that structure for me.

Another time we’ll go over my out-of-body experiences. They are interesting, but I can’t claim they are veridical to any degree. I hope you’ve enjoyed these two brief encounters with the anomalous, and hope you look forward to future articles. I’ll be back soon with more content, stay tuned.

Grey’s Anatomy

The image of large, black, insectoid eyes has haunted me since I was a child. Avidly consuming early nineties media about alien abduction firmly burned the image of the so-called “grey alien” into my young mind. I would imagine seeing them everywhere. They could be lurking behind any window at night, peeking around any open closet door, or peering at me from the tall grass or between trees in my wooded backyard.

I would dream about them showing up. One particularly vivid dream involved me waking up to my brother’s crying. We slept in bunkbeds at the time and I heard him whimpering and sobbing below me. As I peeked over the edge of the bed, I saw a small, spindly Grey watching him. In a moment of bravery and youthful bravado, I jumped over the edge of the bed right on top of the intruder, grabbing one of its huge eyes in my tiny hands and peeling it clean off its face, evoking a scream from the creature that I have never forgotten. The eye turned out to only be some sort of shield or visor. Underneath was an array of tiny red and green lights, like a field of stars. The memory of that dream stops there, gazing into the void of this screaming phantom’s destroyed eye.

This dream came back to me recently when I was looking up some information about Derrel Sims, mostly to have a laugh at some of the silly images that pop up when Googling him. On the page for Fade to Black radio about Sims, there’s a small image of a Grey with an eye exposed to a sort of red field with white dots around it. This resembled my dream memetically, if not the same in actual detail.

The page didn’t have any details, but I found this when doing more searching on it at BibliotecaPleyades:

In one case he investigated he told me that the woman struggled with a creature that had the same round eyes as his abductor. She managed to fight back and knocked out one of the alien’s eye shields, revealing its structure which was composed of five separate areas with little lines moving back and forth across the eye.

On another occassion, when I was 12 or 13 years old, a friend spent the night at my house. We slept in my room – by that time my brother and I had seperate rooms. That morning, after breakfast, he seemed nervous. When pressed, he told me that he’d woken up that evening and saw me sitting up in bed. Next to me was a Grey. We both looked down at him – he was in a sleeping bag on the floor – and I said to him in a completely monotone voice, “it’s okay, go back to sleep now.” At which point, he did exactly as I told him, and remembers nothing past that.

I honestly don’t know what to think of that account, or the constant dreams I had as a child. I’m still nervous at night, I still expect to see that face peering at me through a window or open a door and see it in the hallway. I have no conscious recollection of an actual abduction event, and none of the dreams I had involved me ever actually making it into a space outside of my house or bedroom. It’s entirely possible that these nightmares were simply a manifestation of my own anxieties and phobias. The boy who told me he saw me sitting next to the Grey went on to tell me lots of other fantastical stories over the years; many, if not all of them I heavily doubt.

I also have my doubts about the abduction experience occuring in physical reality. As someone who’s had numerous consciously controlled out-of-body experiences, and who has read numerous reports of these anomalous contact experiences occuring to people while they are under the effects of entheogens, I have a strong feeeling that this experience happens on some different plane of consciousness.

But, let’s just humor the idea, for a moment, that the Greys are a physical, flesh and blood creature. What kind of inferences can we make from their biology, and what would the implications of that data be?

While the image of the Grey “alien” seems bizarre and otherworldly, in the grand scheme of biology it is not. They are firmly and strikingly mammalian, having the same basic body configuration as every other primate on this planet. Imagine, for a moment, that you covered the body of a Grey in fur of some sort. Would they appear all that different from other simian species?

Even their faces are not totally unique and alien to our known animal kingdom. Look at this image of a golden snub-nosed monkey. Doesn’t it seem slightly familiar?

One aspect, an oft-reported tetradactyly, does throw a small wrench in my identification with other primates. From Wikipedia:

Tetradactyly (from Greek tetra-=”four” plus δακτυλος = “finger”) is the condition of having four digits on a limb, as in many amphibians, birds, and theropod dinosaurs. Some mammals also exhibit tetradactyly (for example pigs and the hind limbs of dogs and cats).

It is interesting that the tetradactyly is a condition most commonly found in birds, and formerly in dinosaurs, given that many reports of the Greys mention their “reptilian” skin or just flat-out say that they were reptilian in nature.

The lack of pigmentation in the skin and the large eyes could also be indicative of a subterranean existence or adaptation. This idea isn’t new, as this article explores. The pale skin could be due to a lack of melanin, not needed due to the lack of damaging UV. Large eyes could indicate either a primarily nocturnal existence, similar to other large-eyed animals such as tarsiers and owls, or it could also be an adaptation to a primarly subterranean lifestyle.

Whatever they might be, it should be obvious that the Greys are far too similar to lifeforms we can find right here on Earth to be extraterrestrial. People might cry that we’re witnessing some form of convergent evolution that occurred on different planets, but frankly Occam’s Razor shreds that right up. It’s much more simple and much more likely to posit that the Greys are from Earth, just like we are. The common narrative of abductions even includes the meme of hybridization and a story that the Greys are a “dying race” that need our genetic material to survive. This would not make even the tiniest smidgen of sense unless we were close genetic relatives. It would, however, make total sense if they were some sort of tiny, inbred branch of our genetic family tree.

As the aforementioned article reminds us, UFOs are commonly seen entering and exiting the ocean, lakes, rivers and into the very earth itself, sometimes even being spotted near volcanoes, such as during the eruption of Grímsvötn in Iceland in 2011. All this seems to indicate an origin that is more intraterrestrial than it is extraterrestrial.

The Shaver Mystery, the tall tales about Dulce and other underground bases, the strange story of the Green Children of Woolpit, the mythical city of Agartha: you need not look far to find that the meme of an underground race of technologically advanced beings permeates our popular culture and mythological framework.

What if, instead of watching the skies, we should be watching under our very feet?

Evidence is mounting for the existence of a staggeringly large underground ocean, far larger than the oceans on our surface. Given the propensity for UFOs to be seen in and around water, is it not possible they this subterranean ocean could be used as a super highway of sorts?

In the end, I still have serious doubts and misgivings about the physical reality of beings such as the Greys and tend to lean towards the idea that they are simply another denizen of the spirit ecology that surrounds us. Whatever they are, I’ll never forget that ocean of light I once saw behind that dark eye.

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