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.